Tell me something. What is the point of a newspaper? Why has society created a system that provides a paying job motivating me to sit down every week and write to you about something that happened to John Whosawhatsit in the Land of Oz?
The purpose is the dissemination of information. People like you and I rely on the media as a trustworthy source of crucial information every day. The exceptions are tabloids. These papers are more concerned with the color of Lindsey Lohan’s arm hair and the size of Britney Spears’ muffin-top than what is going on in Haiti or even here in the United States.
And now — get this — an Enquirer executive, Barry Levine, plans to submit the tabloid as a candidate for a Pulitzer Prize.
Last Thursday, former presidential candidate John Edwards admitted to fathering Rielle Hunter’s baby. The Enquirer broke the scandal in 2007. Levine told the Washington Post that this scoop makes the Enquirer a contender for the Pulitzer.
I don’t know what the journalistic standards are for supermarket tabloids. Maybe I don’t have too much room to criticize them from the opinion section of a student newspaper. But doesn’t journalistic reporting hinge on the truth of a story? If a newspaper builds a reputation for publishing false or half-true stories, shouldn’t it be shunned? Why award someone for finally doing the job right?
Levine seems to be elated that an Enquirer story finally turned out to be true, and believe me, I am, too. But who cares about a tryst between a former presidential candidate and his aide? Who cares about every piddling intimate detail about a politician or celebrity’s personal life?
Tabloids like the National Enquirer should be taken as seriously as the names of their articles make them look (“Dr. Phil to Oprah: ‘I’ll Destroy You!’” and “Inside Whitney’s Drug Den!”) Good for Levine that the Edwards scandal story worked out to be true. But with all the hardworking newspapers out there covering Afghanistan and Haiti — current events that actually make a difference in the world — is it even fair to award a Pulitzer to a paper whose covers are primarily dominated by close-ups of cellulite and back-flab? The mere suggestion of submitting a paper like the Enquirer for a Pulitzer is an insult to serious journalists and news media groups the world over.
AE Anteater is a fourth-year English major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.