Pulitzer Surprise?

Friday, January 22, 2010


The National Enquirer has gotten a lot of mainstream press recognition recently for singlehandedly breaking John Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter. On the heels of last week's admission by Edwards that he is the father of an illegitimate child with Hunter, the tabloid has announced it is submitting its coverage for the Pulitzer Prize. Executive Editor Barry Levine discusses the chances and the Enquirer’s image in the mainstream press.

Comments [14]

Michael Carraher from Philadelphia, PA

It is a bit disingenuous for "traditional" news media to turn up their nose at gossip and celebrity scandal. Mainstream newspapers invented it: Winchell followed closely by Ed Sullivan, Louella Parson, Hedda Hopper, down to Liz Smith (who sometimes gets interviewed on public radio).

It might even be appropriate for the Enquirer to receive a Pulitzer for a "gossip" story because gossip was how Joe Pulitzer became rich enough to fund the prize named for him.

Jan. 28 2010 05:22 PM
Bob Garfield

@ty lookwell

i deleted what? i know nothing about any deletion. i have not that power. it's possible a producer deleted a post, but they do that only when a commenter is engaged in overtly hostile, vulgar or ad hominem attack. so, i'll just have to take your word about the "completely non-offensive" part.

Jan. 26 2010 05:12 PM
Ty Lookwell

Jeez Bob, touchy touchy. You were rude and condescending in your piece. Deal with it. And... you deleted my completely non-offensive comment here which merely complimented Thomas Sizgorich's comment and agreed with it? That is just sad (and weird).

Jan. 26 2010 04:53 PM
Bob Garfield

Yes, you are so right. How rude and unseemly of a media critic on a media-criticism program to be critical of a media organization. My sincere apologies.

As for what "Garfield seems to forget," may I kindly call your attention to the other 6000 or 7000 interviews this show has done in nine years.

Finally, did it occur to any of you that the interview did, by definition, give the National Enquirer the credit it was due -- especially with respect to the MSM who ignored the story? No, I guess the answer is "no."

Jan. 26 2010 12:32 PM
Norwood from Norwood

I agree Bob Garfield's interview was condescending. Talk about sensationalism -- he refers to "gazillions" of lawsuits against the Enquirer. It might be that the Enquirer is better built for certain kinds of stories -- those involving celebrities, for instance -- than the mainstream media, and Garfield would have been better off exploring that. Instead he trots out cliches and myths and runs with those. This doesn't mean they deserve a Pulitzer, but they got this right and they deserve some credit. Not a good job at all by Garfield.

Jan. 26 2010 11:54 AM
Thomas Sizgorich from California

The tone taken by Bob Garfield in this interview with Barry Levine was, as one other poster has noted in brief, condescending, arrogant and even by the standards of a graceless profession, rude. But what was more revealing was Garfield's apparent lack of perspective and/or historical knowledge of the profession he is a self-appointed spokesman. In his treatment of the National Enquirer editor as a kind of scribbling Untouchable, Garfield seems to forget that it is the US "mainstream media" that has bent and distorted itself chasing the lowest-denominator, lower-chakra sensationalism that the NE and its broadcast equivalents pioneered. The high-minded journalistic fraternity for which Garfield postures himself as a gatekeeper is in truth little more than a prostitutes' guild at this point, and Garfield looks very much the fool for not understanding this. The few worthwhile journalists still working long ago recognized the larger field as the sewer it has become, and have tried to mitigate its noxious effects. In raising the NE's dubious origins while seeming to forget the enormities of Hearst and other early(and more recent) publishing tycoons, moreover, Garfield came off as a supercilious twit, while Mr. Levine, seeking calmly to reply to his insulting questions, came across as patient, dignified and mature. Surely NPR can do better?

Jan. 24 2010 08:22 PM
Agnieszka Maria Tennant from Chicago

I don't feel strongly either way about The Enquirer vying for the Pulitzer. What did stand out in your story was the use of the cliched and thoughtless phrase "illegitimate child."

A child can be fathered outside the marriage, but does it make the child illegitimate? If your description simply left out the adjective, it would have still made perfect sense.
Let's not perpetuate the culture of moral outrage where plenty of it exists already. Your show is better than that.

Jan. 24 2010 06:40 PM

After 9/11 the national enquirer was the only media source I saw that didn't come off like complete unprofessional b*llsh*t. They deserve plenty of credit for honoring their integrity, such as it is, when it's needed most.

Jan. 24 2010 05:47 PM

Louisa and AnneF make great points. Your story was a let down, Bob and that can be seen even in the opener where you can't believe the National Enquirer broke this story.

In fact, the whole problem with media today is that only the National Enquirer could break this story, or report on it.

And you Bob, how did you handle it during those months?

Jan. 24 2010 04:08 PM
AnneF from Alaska

Very disappointed that you did not discuss the Farrah Fawcett case against the National Enquirer.

Jan. 24 2010 03:06 PM
Louisa from Brooklyn

Are you kidding? Not important? For all the high-minded journalistic standards of traditional media outlets, the John Edwards infidelity story was not broken until the Enquirer printed it. And it was unbelievably important. I was a huge John Edwards fan along with many Americans. He could have gotten the Vice Presidential slot. Do you really think Obama would have won if halfway through the final months of his campaign, his vice-presidential choice was caught with his pants down?

I can't bear tabloids. But many millions of people across the world love them. Occasionally they provide serious journalism. If this information was garnered through checkbook journalism it ultimately does not matter if the public is seriously served.

And no, I don't think professional journalists should leap up and start throwing checks around. But there are different kinds of media with different kinds of standards. Each serves their own audience their own way, and once in a while some good is done.

The Enquirer deserves to be in the running for a Pulitzer.

And one more thing, I love On The Media and Bob Garfield does a great job. But this was the outright rudest I have ever heard him.

Jan. 24 2010 02:15 PM
Rick Leland from Hoboken, NJ

Your piece on the National Enquirer's quest for a Pulitzer Price missed the point entirely. The point isn't whether a supermarket tabloid with a checkered past is capable of doing robust and diligent investigative reporting. The point is that the John Edwards story, not matter how assiduously it was investigated and how scrupulously it was reported is not worthy of recognition as great journalism. Even if one were to concede that a politician's sexual indiscretions are truly newsworthy events (which I, for one, do not), the politician involved was no longer a candidate for public office at the time of the reporting and hadn't served in public office for a number of years. What's next? People magazine winning a Pulitzer for its coverage of Brad and Angelina?

Jan. 24 2010 11:12 AM
D from NYC

I agree with the above comment: a Pulitzer for a story about a public figure's infidelity? Have the Pulitzer standards really fallen so low??
Come on!

Jan. 24 2010 10:55 AM
J Voss from New Mexico

I just listened to this story. Even if the NE used traditional, and even good, journalistic techniques, the story is still sensationalistic. The only stories they publish are on the level of old women gossip and soap opera. Do we really want celebrate and glorify a news organization that thrives on and hangs dirty laundry? I would hope we are better than that.

Jan. 23 2010 04:58 PM

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