Reports That Make Tabloids of Newspapers

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), February 17, 2014 | Go to article overview

Reports That Make Tabloids of Newspapers


My absolute favorite tabloid newspaper headline appeared in something called the Weekly World News: "3-Breasted Gal Joins Clinton as His New Intern." I still have a copy somewhere. Supposedly, the former president hired the "three-bosomed bombshell" after Hillary got caught cuddling with a space alien.

Alas, the more colorful supermarket tabloids are on the way out, victims of the Internet age, along with theoretically more serious publications like Vanity Fair and The New York Times. Titillating gossip about the sexual sins of movie stars, TV celebrities, athletes and politicians has been replaced by impassioned brawls about their moral fitness on social media.

Woody Allen, genius or pervert? Mia Farrow, mother of the century or virago? Dylan Farrow, victim then or victim now? And by whom? Almost everybody's got an opinion, and it says here that nobody knows what they're talking about. Sometimes it appears that the hardest words in the English language must be "I don't know."

Slate's legal affairs correspondent Dahlia Lithwick put it best: "In the Court of Public Opinion there are no rules of evidence, no burdens of proof, no cross-examinations, and no standards of admissibility. ... It has no rules, no arbiter, no mechanism at all for separating truth from lies."

Journalism 101: Anybody can say anything about anybody else. That doesn't mean it belongs in The New York Times. I question the professional ethics of Nicholas Kristof's using his column to intervene in a friend's brutal family dispute where he admittedly has no idea what happened. It's a 20-year-old charge that was investigated and dropped. There's no new evidence. The statute of limitations has run. Other than revenge, what's the point?

It's an online rite of Dionysian celebrity sacrifice; a 21st-century pagan ritual, although not without its entertainment value. Previous to the Internet, who'd have known how many seers, augurs, necromancers and mind-readers live among us? …

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Reports That Make Tabloids of Newspapers
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