John Stossel: Why Celebrate the Enquirer?

America's most popular newspaper, the one with the most readers, is celebrating its 30 years in the business. Unfortunately, that newspaper is The National Enquirer.

I say "unfortunately" because I think some of what they do to attract all those readers is not what reporters should do.

Sure, they've had big scoops. They were the first to demonstrate that O.J. Simpson wore those Bruno Magli shoes. They were the first to report that Jesse Jackson had a mistress and a secret child. But I still think some of what they do is disgusting.

Caught on Camera

They're celebrating their anniversary by publishing a book of photographs. The book has some great pictures of celebrities at some of their most interesting moments, including Princess Diana cuddling, Britney Spears at an awards show, Tina Turner playing rugby, and Christie Brinkley at her wedding on a ski slope.

But if you look more closely at the Enquirer's reporting on celebrities, you sometimes have to wonder, is this newspaper just mean?

For example, they seem to like taking pictures of the famous when they look bad.

They've featured Oprah Winfrey and Mary Tyler Moore without makeup, Dean Martin when he wasn't well, Jack Nicholson in an unflattering bathing suit, and more of Monica Lewinsky than many ever wanted to see.

And they celebrate embarrassing moments, like the Queen of England picking her nose.

Getting What They Want

Still, there's often news value in their pictures. It's the techniques that the Enquirer often uses to get the photos that can be sleazy.

Many celebrities feel harassed by the Enquirer. One of their favorite targets was the late John Kennedy Jr., who once got so fed up that he had a heated confrontation with a photographer. The paper ended up calling him "berserk," which they've also called Bill Clinton, Kathie Lee Gifford, and ABCNEWS' Barbara Walters.

The Enquirer even goes after the children of celebrities.

"They stalked me," said Maggie Kirn, the daughter of Margot Kidder, the actress who played Lois Lane in the Superman movies. "It was hard not to come at them screaming, looking like a nut. And then there they have a photo of me looking like a nut."

Even in death, stars can't hide from the Enquirer's reporters, because they do things other reporters don't think are ethical. For example, they reportedly paid a distant relative of Elvis Presley tens of thousands of dollars to go against Elvis' family's request and take a picture of him in his coffin, and had a photographer dress as a priest to photograph Bing Cosby at his funeral.

Misleading Headlines

And the Enquirer runs ridiculous headlines. "Lonely Batgirl Is Dating Her Dog" was really just a story about actress Alicia Silverstone, who likes to spend time with her dog. The "Secret" in a story touted as revealing "Bin Laden's Secret Hideout" was actually video from Al Jazeera that every network ran.

Finally, sometimes their headlines are totally wrong. They claimed Celine Dion was pregnant with twins when she wasn't. They claimed they had an "exclusive" interview with Clint Eastwood, but they hadn't even spoken directly to him.

And without talking to me, they claimed I had a terrifying battle with stuttering. Well, I do stutter, but a terrifying battle? No.

And on and on. And now they want us to celebrate with them by buying a book that costs $45.

Give me a break!

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