The Weekly World News
was a news-of-the-weird offshoot of The National Enquirer
. In 1979, when The Enquirer
and other Generoso Pope-owned American Media tabloids became full color publications, they needed to use the old black and white printing press for something and so The Weekly World News
was born. It died in August 2007.
In the almost 20 year existence of WWN (as it was also known), it became a guilty pleasure for fans including actor Johnny Depp, and mainstream cultural critics like Time Magazine's Richard Corliss and The Washington Post's Peter Carlson. Both wrote glowing obituaries.
Editor Eddie Clontz, a 10th grade dropout and Florida newspaper veteran, set the magazine's creative tone. Under his management, WWN became a cross between early MAD Magazine
and The Fortean Times
. His journalistic philosophy for the Weekly World News
was 'Don't fact-check your way out of a good story.'
Clontz put together a team of reporters, many of whom actually came from mainstream newspapers including The New York Times
and Philadelphia Inquirer
. At first, the staff based their stories on quasi-true events, each story containing at least one or two provable facts. As time wore on, the one or two provable facts disappeared altogether. WWN soon began accepting stories from any nut-ball off the street, the crazier and more unsubstantiated the better. Most of the stories, however, were fabricated from the fertile minds of Eddie Clontz and his writing staff along with Dick Kulpa, a master of Photoshop digital manipulation and inventor of Bat Boy, WWNs version of Alfred E. Neuman.
Because WWN was mostly sold at supermarket magazine racks, the bogus front page headlines had to immediately grab readers. Some classic WWN bogus headlines included:
Blind Man Regains Sight and Dumps Ugly Wife
Jimmy Hoffa Found in Elvis Grave!
Space Alien Backs Bush for President!
Elvis is Alive and Living in Kalamazoo!
This last headline was WWNs most popular. 1.2 million issues were sold.
The Beginning of the End
In 1991, when The Weekly World News
and National Enquirer
owner American Media sold the tabloids to a media mogul with the unfortunate name of David Pecker, the tone of WWNs satiric content began to lose its bite. Pecker brought in comedy writers from Hollywood to replace longtime WWN staffers. Sadly, the tabloids former delicate balance of satire and verisimilitude was lost. And so The Weekly World News circulation plummeted; and then the publication that we all hated to love was no more.
Eddie Clontz died in 2004.
Links and References