I saw some tabloid magazines at my local 24-hour depanneur and it got me thinking. Is there some disclaimer somewhere in the paper that says “This stuff is not true”? Are all the salacious charges posed as questions (“Is This Man Prince Harry’s Father?”) answered “No, don’t be ridiculous”? How often do they get sued and on what criteria?

Best kept secret of WWII: Hitler was a woman


Cecil is an alien.

Pass it on.

Lex Non Favet Delictorum Votis

On the one or two occasions where I have either looked twice at a “clearly” libellous headline or I have had an article handed two me as “evidence,” I have noted that the articles are generally written in weasel words. “MAJOR STAR SEDUCES 2 YEAR OLD NEPHEW alleges first wife’s second cousin’s hairdresser.” On those occasions when they have not been sufficiently weaselly, a few of them have been successfully sued.


      • Yes and no. Some print lots of BS stories, but it’s generally harmless stuff like “world’s fattest man hits 5000 lbs!” - (If you notice, they use the same guy’s head for all those photos and his head never gets any fatter. It’s probably the editor of the tabloid.) The Sun is supposed to print the most fake stories, usually identifiable by a few particular bylines but they’re stories about bat boy, not Madonna.
      • I happened across a show once that was a documentary of sorts, about how the tabloids worked - primarily the Enquirer. Damned interesting places. One of the editors explained how they get the material they do - basically, they pay people in “sensitive” areas some money up front ($200-$500) and promise more if they ever turn up anything useful. The people are cops, ambulance workers, security guards, hotel doormen, room service. He said that whenever something big happens, somebody usually comes forward and talks - they want the money and are afraid of getting scooped by somebody else -“You sit in the employee parking lot and look for the guy that drives the crappiest car.” The reason you saw that picture of River Phoenix was that somebody with access to the body took the photo and sold it to a tabloid. They don’t have to fake stuff, because somebody with the genuine article usually comes knocking at the door.
  • The particular story on the show was how they broke the Michael Jackson story - they employed 40 private detectives, spent $250,000+. They went back through two and a half years of Michael Jackson photos and identified every boy in each (almost a thousand), and then tried to detirmine if any had been spending lots of time with Mike over the last few months. This didn’t work directly because several had spent lots of time with him, but a cop broke and gave a contact the name of the street the kid lived on. From there it was easy to figure out, based on the info they already had.(I can’t remember what the cop got paid.) This was considered the #1 story at the time and they also ran into other tabloids, doing their own searches also.
      • The editor also said that they don’t pay for anything they can’t verify. And even at that, many of the stories they pay for never get used. They’re bought essentially as filler material but are considered time-sensitive and so are discarded weekly. That week they had paid out over $30,000 for unused stories. - MC

A little bit off topic—but IMO one of the funniest (British) tabloid headlines was years ago when Elton John was involved in a rent-a-boy situation:
“Don’t Let Your Son Go Down on Me!”

Souvenieeeeers, nov-elties, par-ty tricks

Most of those tabs are published down in Lantana, Florida, the French Foreign Legion of journalism. Burned-out newspaperpeople go down there and get paid really well for writing that crap–but few of them last long, as it drives you quite mad.

They have huge legal departments to make sure they’re not printing anything libelous–they do get sued from time to time (Carol Burnett won a suit about ten years back), but they are REAL careful.

      • Yea, all the employees visible seemed to be twenty-somethings, with a few thirties thrown in. One said that the work is always fast-paced and exciting, but you never get paid all that much, and you never build a reputation like you would if you were doing good work for a regular paper. People do it for initial experience and after a few years tend to move on. - MC