The Weekly World News may be dead -- long live the Weekly World News -- but who needs it when we've got Boston Herald covers like this one? We were reminded today that the WWN -- bless its putrid, beautiful soul -- perished not because its niche shrank, but precisely because the opposite happened: its practice of fabulism, shameless hyperbole, and proud, profound disdain of anything so mundane as "the facts" metastasized into general practice for the mainstream media. The Weekly World News ceased to exist because it was no longer necessary: daily newspapers and weekly glossies out-sensationalized the insatiably sensational.
The first rule of tabloids is, if you can get the words "Vampire," "Killer," and "Blood" above the fold, increase your point size by 20. (Why? So that the rest of the headline -- in this case, the final two words of "Vampire Killer's Blood Money Bid" -- doesn't get in the way.) The Herald dutifully followed this advice to the letter, but that was just the beginning. The real beauty was how they managed to cram not one but three grade-Z bloodsucker puns into its front-page hype. There was the merely awful "Parole Play May Be in 'Vein' " kicker sitting there at the top, decapitating the upper eighth of the page. Then came the treacly, cringe-inducing "Critics say jailhouse art sale bites" in the subhed. And, for good measure, they finished off with a photo caption of the killer that began "LOTS AT STAKE." (Cue crickets chirping.) At this, however, the staff's pun-muscles apparently failed: the page-five inside hed leeched off the front caption's pun, settling for the weak, community-newspaperish " 'Vampire' stakes future on art." Still, only a truly inspired layout staff -- or a deathly bored one -- would follow up by letting the vampire theme bleed across into the top story of the facing page, a wire import headlined "Technology bytes: New controller puts power to run iPods in your mouth."
Nice to see what the moribund Herald staff is capable of when they find something to sink their teeth into.
Inside there was the faintest tidbit of political red meat from Duval Patrick's office -- hedging support in favor of an anti-"murderbilia" bill -- buried under a page's worth of hyperventilation about a 50-year-old diagnosed schizophrenic named James Riva who, as Massachusetts law shamefully permits, has been hawking his jailhouse artwork on a web site. Riva is also hoping, as only paranoid schizos can, that some parole board will actually let him loose after serving 27 years of a life-sentence-plus, which he incurred for shooting his grandmother and, unfortunately for the both of them but fortunately for the ghouls at One Herald Square, drinking her blood.
Here's our favorite excerpt: "A relative [of Riva's] who refused to identify himself wouldn't comment, except to say the media was only out to 'sensationalize'Riva's story." Gee, wonder where he got that fucking idea? Perhaps the Herald should run a second-day story on the unidentified relative's clairvoyance, since clearly he was able to magically forsee a) the quarter-page reproduction of one of Riva's drawings that ran adjacent to the story; and b) the sentence that immediately preceded his quote, which took the low-road step of giving out the URL at which one can purchase Riva's art. (We're not stupid: we know you're googling it right now, but some news outlets still have a vestigal lizard remnant of something that used to be called "class.")
It's a trick the Herald learned from the WWN: a feigned, winking moral outrage at the shocking -- shocking! -- acts of a debased, fallen society, delivered with a straight face even as it fucks the corpse for all it's worth on Page One. We bet Riva makes less in a year from his art (even with the added publicity boost) than the mailroom boys will make selling today's Herald cover on eBay. Hey guys: we hear "murderbilia" is auctioning big these days! (At least the Weekly World News was honest about it.) We don't begrudge the Herald its hypocrisies: hell, we encourage them -- with the same root-for-the-retards glee we used to reserve for Bat Boy and Ed Anger. Go, Herald!