So long, Weekly World News, it was fun

As Ed Anger might say, I’m madder than a blind man in a nudist colony. My favorite tabloid, the Weekly World News, is closing up shop. The tabloid newspaper will cease publication this month, apparently because of declining circulation.

For those of you who aren’t regular readers of the WWN, Ed Anger is, I assume, the nom de plume of the tab’s perpetually ranting columnist who vents his rage every week about the constant frustrations of modern life. He always begins his rant with a colorful variation of the phrase “I’m madder than …..”

The closing of WWN means I’ll no longer be able to read about such important news as Satan’s face appearing in storm clouds, and in dark smoke billowing from gigantic fires. Only in WWN could you read about Satan’s face being seen in a satellite shot of Hurricane Andrew.

Nor will I be informed of the computer viruses that are spreading to humans (see above), or the next sighting of Elvis. And I won’t know who The Alien will endorse in next year’s presidential election.

FYI, The Alien, a tall, slender extraterrestrial who neither wears clothes nor has external gonads, backed Clinton during his two campaigns.

The so-called Mainstream Media just isn’t going to report that kind of news.

I started reading WWN in the early 1990s, when I was a reporter in Florida. If you’ve never chased news in that part of the world, you have to understand something: Florida – especially South Florida – is a strange place that seems to compel people to do strange things, usually in public.

A reporter goes to work in the morning knowing that, before the day ends, he or she could be writing about Cuban or Haitian refugees coming ashore at a nearby beach, or a Space Shuttle crash, or a man finding a coral snake in his swimming pool and being bitten when he tries to put it in his freezer, or an alligator attacking a senior citizen on a golf course.

And it’s not just bizarre local news. I have a theory that every major news story that breaks in the U.S. at some point takes a turn through Florida. From the hanging ballot chads that ensnarled the 2000 presidential election, to the September 11 terrorist bombers learning to fly in Vero Beach, to the Florida congressman whose suggestive e-mails to young pages in the House of Representatives probably cost the Republicans the 2006 elections – if you can imagine it, it’s probably already happened in Florida.

I think that’s why South Florida is home to supermarket tabloids such as WWN, the National Enquirer, the Star, and others. I think the tabloid editors realize that just being in the midst of the South Florida looniness is a great stimulant to their writers.

I never paid attention to WWN until I lived there. Then, one day in the Publix checkout line, my eye fell on the WWN rack. I don’t remember what the headline was, but I do recall thinking that, after having lived in the land of surreal news events for a while, the stories in WWN seemed less absurd and more appealing to me.

Note that I did not say that I believed the stories; I just suddenly found them more appealing.

So I started buying a copy occasionally. My wife, a very bright woman who earned a PhD from one of the nation’s top three graduate sociology programs, was surprised and maybe a little embarrassed that her husband would bring home such a lowbrow publication. You don’t take that stuff seriously, she said. Nah, I said, I just read it like a comic book.

After a year or so, I learned to think a little like a WWN editor. I learned to take several contemporary fears and a few scraps of news and mold them into WWN-style headlines such as this one: “Alien pit-bulls spreading AIDS.”

Why did I like the WWN? Because it was unashamedly outrageous and hugely imaginative. Because its editors and writers didn’t give a flip about chasing half-true celebrity gossip that is the staple of other tabs. Because WWN was always printed in honest, down-to-earth, good old black and white.

Soon it will be gone from the supermakets, and life in the checkout line, alas, will be even duller.

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