TEXT OF COMMENTARY
Doug Krizner: Maybe you glanced at the Weekly World News while in the grocery checkout line.This paper features tales of extraterrestrials, scientific discoveries like the cure for lovesickness, and regular features on animal-human hybrid Bat Boy. But Weekly World’s publisher, American Media, reported a $160 million net loss for 2006. And it’s struggling with a billion dollars of debt. So after 28 years, today’s issue will be the last in print. Weekly World News will still be available online. But for commentator John Booth, it just won’t be the same.
John Booth: I haven’t bought a copy of the Weekly World News in years, so I’ll take my share of the blame for its demise.
Sure, the supermarket checkouts will still more than their share of airbrushed celebrity plastic surgery nightmares and badly-altered weight-loss/weight gain photos, but frankly, I find that kind of stuff depressing.
Give me aliens in the White House. Give me Bigfoot spotted in a drive-thru. Give me take-home quizzes that will help me see if my ancestors came from off-planet.
When I was a little kid hypnotized by Star Wars, the front page of the Weekly World News gave me flying saucers by the dozen.
As a smart-aleck junior high kid wondering whether or not today was the day America and Russia would nuke each other to bits, the publication assuaged my fears — albeit by guaranteeing Armageddon on a regular basis.
And in high school, when my friends and I visited our town’s only 24-hour grocery to rent cheesy movies, nothing went with “Motel Hell” like a copy of the Weekly World News.
What made the paper great through it all was the absolute sincerity with which it used to ply its tales.
The finger-staining newsprint, the sans-serif, all-caps headlines, the screaming, even SHOCKING! sunburst cover splashes, all somehow lent the News an air of, well, certainly not weight or truth or reality, but of understanding.
An understanding between the paper and its readers in which both sides know it’s all a joke, but one that’s a whole lot funnier if you pretend the other side’s taking it seriously.
But in the new millennium, we’ve all just gotten so used to reading bizarre humor and clever satire and flat-out lies online that the Weekly World News doesn’t stand out from the rest anymore.
Now that’s a tale worthy of the News itself: A publication built on lying for fun and profit, killed by the Internet.
I’d have been less surprised to find Bat Boy running the CIA.
Krizner: John Booth is a writer at Crain’s Cleveland Business. In Los Angeles, I’m Doug Krizner.Thanks for listening.
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