The National Enquirer (also commonly known as the Enquirer) is an American supermarket tabloid now published by American Media Inc (AMI). Founded in 1936, the tabloid has gone through a variety of changes over the years, and is currently well-known for its articles focusing on celebrity news, gossip, and crime.
The Enquirer makes no secret of the fact that it will pay sources for tips, a practice generally frowned upon by the mainstream press. At least one prominent story, connected to the Elizabeth Smart case, had to be retracted after it was revealed that two informants had fabricated false information. The informants had been paid a large sum for the story.
In recent years it has sought to establish a reputation for reliable journalism and had some success, often scooping other media on the O.J. Simpson and Monica Lewinsky stories. However, the tabloid has struggled with declining circulation figures due to competition from glossy tabloid publications which is why American Media now also owns former competitor, The Star.
In 1954, Pope revamped the format from a broadsheet to a tabloid, and changed the name to The National Enquirer. Pope worked tirelessly in the 1950s and 1960s to increase the circulation and broaden the tabloid's appeal. In the late 50s and through most of the 60s, the Enquirer was known for its gory and unsettling headlines and stories such as: "I Cut Out Her Heart and Stomped On It" (Sept. 8, 1963) and "Mom Boiled Her Baby And Ate Her" (1962). At this time the paper was sold on newsstands and drugstores only. Pope stated he got the idea for the format and these gory stories from seeing people congregate around auto accidents.
Pope pioneered the idea of selling magazines at supermarket checkouts. In order to get into the supermarkets, Pope completely changed the format of the paper in late 1967 by dropping all the gore and violence and instead focusing on more benign topics like celebrities, the occult and UFO's.
In 1971, Pope moved the headquarters from New York to Lantana, Florida. It later relocated south again; but this time only 15 miles to Boca Raton, Florida. During most of the 1970s and 1980s, The National Enquirer sponsored the placement of the largest Christmas Tree in the world at its Lantana headquarters in what became an annual tradition. A tree was shipped in mid-autumn from the Pacific Northwest by rail and off-loaded by crane onto the adjacent Enquirer property. Every night during the Christmas season, thousands of visitors would come to see the tree. This would grow into one of south Florida's most celebrated and spectacular events. Although tremendously expensive, this was Pope's "Pet Project" and his "Christmas present" to the local community. The tradition passed into history with his death in 1988.
By the time of Pope's death, The National Enquirer empire included Weekly World News, and Distribution Services, Inc. The surviving owners, including Pope's widow, Lois, sold the company to a partnership of MacFadden Publishing and Boston Ventures for $412 million. Soon after, the company bought the Enquirer's main competition, The Star, from Rupert Murdoch. The combined interests were controlled by a newly formed company American Media Inc (AMI).
The National Enquirer is also preparing to publish a story (in the September 15, 2008 issue) alleging that Palin had an affair with her husband's business partner, Brad Hanson.
Answering John McCain's threat of a law suit, a spokesman for the paper, in a statement to the Huffington Post, declared:
In October 2007, the Enquirer ran a story about the 2006 affair with Hunter, a filmmaker hired by the Edwards political team, although Edwards dismissed the story as "completely untrue, ridiculous" and "false.
In July 2008, the Enquirer ran an article claiming to have caught the former North Carolina Senator visiting Hunter, and their alleged illegitimate child at a hotel in Los Angeles. The article did not include any corroborating photos. Fox News interviewed an unnamed security guard who claimed to have witnessed a confrontation between Edwards and the Enquirer staff members.
During the same episode, another AMI staffer, Ernesto Blanco, was hospitalized with symptoms of exposure to anthrax bacteria. "The 73-year-old mailroom worker nearly died of inhalation anthrax, but has since recovered," the New York Post reported Nov. 9, 2001 in an article no longer online. That article was titled: "AMERICAN Media head honcho David Pecker is off his Cipro."
For a time the Enquirer sought recognition for journalistic research and news scoops. In 2001, the Enquirer uncovered that the Rev. Jesse Jackson had an illegitimate child. Salacious details of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair were first made public by the Enquirer. The Enquirer was regarded by some as having the best media coverage of the O.J. Simpson murder trial. For example, when a distinctive footprint from a Bruno Magli shoe was found at the crime scene, Simpson vehemently denied owning such a shoe. The Enquirer, however, published a photo by a freelance photographer showing Simpson in the shoes, then dug up another one again showing him in such a pair.
Controversy over false content arose again for the Enquirer when a 2002 article alleged that male members of the family of kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart were involved in what the article termed a "gay sex ring." Subsequently, two reporters from the Salt Lake Tribune were fired after it was learned that they had been paid $20,000 for the story, which they had fabricated. The Enquirer threatened to sue the Salt Lake Tribune for making false and defamatory statements about the publication after an editorial had disclaimed the Tribune's involvement. The salacious details of the Smart story were retracted by the Enquirer, and a rare apology was issued to the Smart family. One of the fired reporters acknowledged that his behavior was unethical, but expressed surprise that the story had been taken seriously, stating, "When I dealt with the Enquirer, I never dreamed that I was accepting money for 'information'.
The Enquirer settled a libel lawsuit with the wife of Gary Condit out of court in 2003, lost a suit brought by Kate Hudson in 2006, and has been or is currently being sued by a number of other public figures.
In September, 2005, the Enquirer stated that U.S. President George W. Bush was drinking and acting erratically.
In 2006, the Enquirer was the first newspaper to reveal that O. J. Simpson had written a book, If I Did It. The story was immediately denied by Simpson's lawyer, but was confirmed by release of the book one month later.
In early March 2007 the paper blocked access to its website for British and Irish readers because a story about Cameron Diaz that they had published in 2005 and for which she received an apology had appeared on the site. The apology concerned a story it had run in 2005 entitled “Cameron Caught Cheating” which turned out to be false – an accompanying picture was just an innocent goodbye hug to a friend, not evidence of an affair. Although only 279 UK web addresses had looked at the story, it was deemed to have therefore been published in the UK. UK libel laws are more plaintiff friendly and it is not necessary to prove actual malice for the plaintiff to win., Also in March 2007, Tucker Chapman, son of Duane "Dog" Chapman sold a tape to the Enquirer of his father disparaging his black girlfriend with the use of the word "nigger" in which the Enquirer paid Tucker an undisclosed amount. The A&E Network canceled Chapman's show, Dog the Bounty Hunter, pending an investigation. On February 21, 2008, A&E Network stated they will be resuming production on Dog the Bounty Hunter, and on May 14, 2008, announced it will be returning to TV on June 25, 2008.
The Enquirer's circulation for a time fell below 1 million (from over 6 million at its height). AMI brought in around 20 British journalists in early 2005, headed by editor, Paul Field, a former executive at the British tabloid The Sun, and relocated the editorial offices to New York for an April 2005 relaunch. The move failed horribly and Field and virtually all the British journalists were fired after just a year. The company reappointed David Perel and announced the Enquirer offices would return to Boca Raton, Florida in May 2006. Circulation numbers then climbed to over 1 million readers again (and Pecker realized his mistake), and according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations remain over 1 million today. David Perel remains in charge.
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