Featured: Top of Home Page

So long, Weekly World News

John Booth

I’ll miss the Weekly World News.

I hadn’t bought a copy in years, so I’ll shoulder my share of the blame for its coming demise, but only if you admit that even if you never shelled out the cash to buy a copy or sheepishly thumbed through it in the checkout lane, you wanted to know, on some level, what was behind those pulpy covers.

I was surprised to learn this week that the Weekly World News only dated back to 1979, but it makes sense that the paper was at its height while I was growing up in the 1980s.

It was there when I was a curious elementary-schooler, hypnotized by Star Wars and aliens, when I was a wise-ass junior-high kid, paranoid about Russian nukes, and when I was a high-schooler who occasionally reveled in its unflinching bullshit. Where tabloids like Star and the National Enquirer had a kind of voyeuristic, tawdry aura, the Weekly World News’ sheer overt outlandishness somehow made it more palatable. I just didn’t see much fun in lurid, third-hand sex-and-drugs celebrity fodder. But Selenites watching us from their dark-side-of-the-moon city? Count me in.

That’s what made the WWN great: The absolute sincerity with which the paper used to ply its tales of JFK spottings, Bat Boy sightings, and the stunning appearance of Satan’s visage in any number of fires, erupting volcanoes, tanker truck explosions and steaming compost. The finger-staining newsprint, the sans-serif, all-caps headlines, the screaming -- even SHOCKING! -- sunburst cover splashes, all somehow lent the paper an air of, well, certainly not weight or truth or reality, but of understanding. An understanding that went something like, “Look -- we cared enough about this crap we created to put it in print, and you know you want to read it and have a laugh at how seriously you think we’re taking it, so let’s help each other out. Grab a beer.”

Somewhere in the new millennium, the paper stopped pretending to take itself seriously. That’s when the fun stopped. The physical edition can still kind of pull it off, mostly because the covers are still classics, I can’t say the same for the website. The same tall tales are there, but the newsprint doesn’t translate that well to pixels.

We’ve all just gotten so used to reading bizarre humor and clever satire and flat-out lies online that the Weekly World News doesn’t stand out from the rest anymore. It comes off like a pale Onion-wannabe.

There’s also the tabloid-porn factor: When you can get online and read all you want about conspiracy theories and UFO invasions and angel sightings, then why would you bother going to the store to buy your guilty pleasure? How bizarre is that? A publication built on lying for fun and profit, killed by the Internet.

I’d have been less surprised to find aliens running the CIA.





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.