It is an insult to the word “news” to call the British rag that had its final run the News of the World. However, Americans should not be the first to throw stones. We have our fair share of Enquirers and Stars. Even taking a look in the back pages of the Bohemian shows where a part of its ad revenue comes from.
I had a great aunt who never beat around the bush. She called a spade a spade—or as the Brits put it in the early 1900s, “Call a spade a bloody shovel.” She called papers like The News, Enquirer and Star what they are: scandal sheets. Scandal seems to increase paid circulation. As Hearst used to say about headlines, “If it bleeds, it leads.
Some of America’s newspapers are also not qualified to use the word “news.” I worked my way through college in the late 1960s as a newspaper apprentice pressman for the partially merged San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner.
Someone at the Examiner decided the paper could increase its smaller afternoon home delivery if it put on a moral crusade against the popular topless bars in North Beach. It made a big deal about taking a stand for children coming home from school by refusing to run ads for topless nightclubs and XXX movies in its afternoon paper.
But the Examiner didn’t mention in its series of page-one stories that through its joint-operating agreement, it would continue to share the revenue the Chronicle was bringing in by carrying these same ads. The most popular guy in the “newsroom” was the guy assigned to airbrush the photos of the topless performers to make the images fit to print in the entertainment section. He had lots of visitors from other parts of the newsroom to check out the unretouched photos he’d hung all around his workstation. So I know what motivates readers.
The loss of The News of the World is no big deal. There are other scandal sheets out there eager to continue to use the “bloody shovel” and take your money. Rupert Murdoch is not dumb. He can’t claim he wasn’t looking at his high circulation. Sorry to say, there are few real newspapers.
Tom Mariani is a retired banker, published poet and short story writer who lives in Santa Rosa.