How has tabloid journalism changed? The News of the World is dead, and in the ‘states the notorious supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer is a shadow of its former self. I’m in the US at the moment and have just heard Iain Calder speak at a conference. He’s the Scot who edited the Enquirer when it was selling up to 5-6 million copies a week in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Everyone assumes most of their stories were made up, but apparently everything was heavily legalled and they lost few lawsuits in that period. Calder told the story of how they scooped the world in 1977 with the last picture of Elvis, lying in his coffin. (Bribed the family). How they got an exclusive interview and pictures of disgraced US baseball star Pete Rose in prison – a big deal at the time. (Reporter with pneumatic blonde wife who’s a part-time singer volunteers to give free concert in prison. They hide camera in loudspeaker. She uses her charms to get to see restricted parts of the prison, briefly speaks to Rose and snaps quick pics.) It’s all a long way from the likes of the Press Complaints Commission, prosecutions for phone-hacking and today’s cash-strapped publications which simply don’t have the necessary budgets to pull off such stunts. Perhaps things are a little better-behaved nowadays but maybe a lot less fun.
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