Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Brangelina kills Bat Boy

Sad, but true. Supermarket cashier lines will be a duller, sadder place after Weekly World News recently ceased publication, although it retains a web site. Those furtive glances (it took rare courage to actually grab a copy) always brought a smile. Now, we're left only with humorless, unimaginative gossip and soap opera rags.

I did enjoy this, perhaps unintentionally poignant, op-ed by one of its contributors.

I was, at first, confused about whether I was supposed to write true offbeat news, general satire or complete fabrication. So I asked. The response was loud and clear: "complete fabrication." (In case this wasn't clear, the paper started running a disclaimer in 2004: "The reader should suspend disbelief for the sake of enjoyment.")

Yet each piece was written as if completely real. So when, for example, Bigfoot got married, launched his acting career and became involved with Kabbalah, each story got a dateline, quotes from "sources" and "experts" and followed a typical Associated Press structure. In fact, much of the original staff came from mainstream newspapers. The standard? It had to seem true.

"Half the readers realize the stories are tongue-in-cheek; the other half believe they're all true," my editor explained. "You have to write the stories to satisfy both groups."

Without such whimsy, the world is a little bit diminished.