by Scott McLemee on July 24, 2007

It is a dark day for American journalism. Rick Perlstein alerts me that the Weekly World News — paper of record for “stories about aliens, Satan, giant pigs rampaging through the Georgia woods, Nostradamus-like prophets, time travel, and, of course, Bat Boy” — is going under.


During the run-up to the Iraq War, it was a Weekly World News reporter who blew the lid on Saddam’s program to clone dinosaurs for use as weapons of mass destruction. Other tabloids have their social function of course, but none was ever half so fearless.

In the words of perennial WWN columnist Ed Anger, “I’m madder than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.”

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The Penultimate Word » What am I going to read in the checkout line?
07.25.07 at 12:50 pm
Forget the Wall Street Journal « The Opinion Mill
07.27.07 at 3:13 am



vivian 07.25.07 at 12:17 am

Aren’t they ‘about to go under’ once or twice a decade? A watershed moment for my media sophistication came when, in a burst of nostalgia for a friend who used to give Shatneresque dramatic readings of Ed Anger’s column, I bought a copy of the WWN – this must have been in 1992 or so. And I saw two articles that I had first seen months earlier in the Boston Globe and the NY Times. Cold shivers doesn’t begin to capture that feeling.


roger 07.25.07 at 1:19 am

Ed Anger, aka Eddie Clontz, pretty much created the tone and logic of political debate in the U.S. over the last two decades. What the Founding Fathers might have owed to Montesquieu and John Locke, Fox News (in particular, Bill “Lesbian Gang” O’Reilly) owes to Ed Anger. And through Fox, of course, that tone, that marvelous comfort with absurdism, question begging, contradictory premises, and testosterone fueled tantrum has actually become the White House mode of operation.

They can’t kill WNN! Why don’t they sue O’Reilly for plagiarism if they need an extra million?


MR. Bill 07.25.07 at 1:21 am

This is the fine publication that alerted me of the onslaught of Zombies in my own home town, Blue Ridge GA. In a piece entitled “Hillbilly Zombies cause Mountain Mayhem”, (and I have a copy somewhere) the Weekly World News told abut the need for zombie traps (and pulled in an irrelevant Irish academic to tell us “zombies are people too”).
They also blew the whistle on 5 US Senator as Space Aliens. (My on Senator Sam Nunn’s office issued a statement “ok, you got us.”)


Xanthippas 07.25.07 at 1:25 am

I can certainly think of publications that are more deserving of this fate. I don’t know what the editors of the WWN thought of the invasion of Iraq, but surely they did less harm than some more “credible” papers.


eric 07.25.07 at 1:40 am

I once interviewed for a job at a law firm that represents American Media, Inc., parent corporation of the WWN, National Enquirer, and other fine publications. The partner in charge of their media practice was telling me about some of the interesting defamation defense cases he’d handled on behalf of the Enquirer. Letting my guard down, I mentioned that I was a fan of the WWN, and asked whether he’d had any interesting cases with them. He said he hadn’t, pointing out that their stories are so ridiculous they are probably libel-proof. Needless to say, I didn’t get an offer.


DavidS 07.25.07 at 2:44 am

Oh, no, say it ain’t so! The WWN was a step beyond the other tabloids, dedicated to finding news that believers in Bigfoot and pyramid power would find shocking.

I think my favorite headline was “Study finds 60% of Shamans not real Witch Doctors!”


JP Stormcrow 07.25.07 at 4:57 am

Your post prompted me to read some background on WWN, and I must say that I did not realize the degree to which they went beyond many of the other tabloids and were consciously running something close to The Onion – or maybe the WWF is a better analogy. For instance long-time comics writer Paul Kupperberg had joined not too long ago and penned things like WHY MOSES WANDERED IN THE DESERT FOR FORTY YEARS: He Lost the Map!

“A parchment map was found in a sealed urn not far from the remains of an Egyptian chariot,” said Rabbi Schmotkin-Fisher. “We surmise that Moses dropped it in the rush to get across the Red Sea before the parted waters came back together.

“It was etched by I Am’s own flaming finger, plainly mapping the way to the Promised Land. Remarkably, had they followed the Lord’s route, the trek would have taken the Israelites about a month, tops.”

Another interesting tidbit – apparently it was started in 1979 to make use of the remaining black and white presses when the Enquirer moved to color.



Steve 07.25.07 at 1:03 pm

Serena Sabak, America’s Sexiest Psychic, presumably saw this coming and got a job elsewhere.


rea 07.25.07 at 1:58 pm

The WWN was a step beyond the other tabloids

It was published by the same company that publishes the Star and National Enquirer, and of course, was the victim of an anthrax terrorist attack in ’01


greensmile 07.25.07 at 2:38 pm

The World Weekly News has only itself to blame: they have fallen behind the times. That smart set who must read a horoscope while standing in line to buy their Tater-Tots and cheese curls have moved on from aliens to politicians. And even for that that demographic bastion of Republican Values, Bush has lost his mojo : blood in the water attracts these discerning readers.


P O'Neill 07.25.07 at 3:03 pm

WWN is a bit player in why the Washington press corps loved that joker George Bush compared to that awful man Al Gore who kept talking about the earth and lock boxes and stuff. The rest is history.


Spoon 07.25.07 at 6:37 pm

Don’t forget that the WWN said they wouldn’t hire Jayson Blair because he had a lot to learn about journalistic integrity. (It’s somewhere in the Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me news archives …)


~~~~ 07.25.07 at 6:54 pm

But, P. O’Neill, Batboy endorsed Gore!


Xanthippas 07.25.07 at 7:59 pm

Letting my guard down, I mentioned that I was a fan of the WWN, and asked whether he’d had any interesting cases with them. He said he hadn’t, pointing out that their stories are so ridiculous they are probably libel-proof. Needless to say, I didn’t get an offer.

That and you probably don’t have to worry when most of your libelous statements are made about hillbilly zombies, werewolves, aliens, man-bats and Satan. Were one of them to bring suit, we’d probably have a lot more to talk about than whether they were actually slandered.


Jon H 07.26.07 at 2:21 am

Why don’t they just move it to the web?


asm 07.26.07 at 7:24 pm

I second 16.

It would have been interesting what type of videos the Weekly World News would feature. I am told that in the list of the top ten most watched videos on the Internet are the “Exploding whale” ensemble production and the esteemable “John West Salmon” documentary, also known as the “Man fights bear” video. I have no doubt that WWN videos would take over the Internet, not the least checkout pages of online retailers everywhere.

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