With sensational headlines and scandalous photos, supermarket tabloids dish out the dirt on everyone and everything from space aliens and Bat Boy to Elvis and Britney. Although they were once the pariah of traditional journalism, tabloids have gained credibility in recent years and today their lurid style--and sometimes their reportage--is even imitated by mainstream news outlets.
In Tabloid Valley, Paula Morton explores the cultural impact of the sensationalist press over the years, focusing on Generoso Pope Jr.'s decision in 1971 to move the editorial offices of the National Enquirer from New Jersey to Florida. This bold step initiated a mass exodus of similar publications to the Sunshine State where six of the largest circulation weeklies--the Star, the Globe, the Weekly World News, the Sun, the National Examiner, and the Enquirer--were eventually consolidated under a single owner, American Media, Inc. Florida's favorable business climate and a booming southern frontier created the perfect environment for the tabloids and their writers to flourish.
Morton goes behind the scenes to examine every facet of modern yellow journalism: what headlines sell and why, how the journalists gather the news, the recent and ongoing downturn in circulation, what the tabloids are doing to maintain their foothold, and, most important, what the tabloid news says about American culture.
Though sensationalism was rampant by the time Generoso Pope, Jr. purchased the struggling New York Enquirer (later the National Enquirer) in 1952, he was arguably first to fully realize the if-it-bleeds-it-leads maxim: "I noticed how accidents drew crowds, and I decided, if it was blood that interested people, I'd give it to them." Journalist Morton chronicles the rise of Pope's tabloid news empire, from its first shock-value headlines through its toned-down, supermarket-friendly format (aiming at the suburban Reader's Digest demographic) and into the loony heights of tabloid surrealism. After Pope moved his venture to Lantana, Fla., he acquired the Weekly World News, which took the tabloid concept to new levels of absurdity (headlines include "Bat Child Found in Cave" and "Elvis is Alive!"). Morton uncovers fascinating details behind the paper's most sensational stories, including the1977 photo of Elvis in his coffin and the 1987 story of philandering presidential hopeful Gary Hart. The book also covers tabloid staples like Jon-Benet Ramsey, O.J Simpson, Princess Diana and 9/11, as well as Pope's competition (especially Rupert Murdoch's Star). This delightful, nostalgic look at a peculiar era in journalism demonstrates its lasting influence on mainstream news (greater than many would like to admit); front-page reproductions of the Enquirer and its contemporaries round out the tour.