Admittedly, most of what I know about the tabloids is what I absorb from mindlessly staring at their covers while waiting in line at the supermarket. On rare occasions, I’ve bought The Enquirer to read articles of particular interest, and despite the rag’s rather negative reputation, I’ve found those articles to be fair and factual. I don’t know about other tabloids—the ones with the half-alien babies or alligator people on the covers—but it seems to me that The Enquirer may have its place in society. No doubt it serves to keep certain celebrities aware of their image and influence, and—like a tactless, too-blunt guest at a cocktail party—it often comes right out and says what others are thinking.
The story of how The Enquirer punctured the impeccable image that John Edwards had so long enjoyed ($400 haircuts not withstanding) reads like a good spy novel. And given the man’s now well-understood narcissism and penchant for dishonesty, it must be said that America dodged a bullet by not electing him to even higher office than Senator from North Carolina. It can be argued that in public figures who have the potential to exert enormous influence, deep defects of character are the people’s business.
But a Pulitzer Prize? What does this nomination suggest for media standards? Will this “awkward embrace from traditional journalism” (as the New York Times called it), legitimize mean-spirited, sensational gossip? Or will it contribute to narrowing the gap between truth and fiction when it comes to the actions and motivations of people who symbolize—for good or for ill—our cultural standards?
I have no answers to these questions. I’m only asking.