Wednesday, February 25, 2004

eating his own weight in insects
From Michael Brooke comes news of the sad demise of Eddie Clontz, former editor of the Weekly World News.

Two stories in particular got Mr Clontz noticed. In 1988, his organ revealed that “ELVIS IS ALIVE! (King of Rock 'n' Roll Faked his Death and is Living in Kalamazoo, Mich!)”. A few years later, the News reported that a bat boy, with huge ears and amber eyes and “eating his own weight in insects each single day”, had been found by scientists in a cave in West Virginia.

Both items were followed up for years. Elvis went on appearing; Bat Boy escaped, was recaptured by the FBI, fell in love and endorsed Al Gore for president. Readers wrote in with their own sightings, bolstering whatever truth the nation believed was there. In 1993, Mr Clontz dared to kill the resurrected Elvis (“ELVIS DEAD AT 58!”)—only to reveal some time later that this death, too, had been a hoax.

The WWN is generally seen as a bit of a giggle for journos, a childish part-time pleasure before they return to the serious business of the public tribunate; hyping bad science, faithfully recording the effulgencies of mad futurologists, re-writing corporate press releases as business news, inventing social trends to fool the status hungry, stitching together the assorted mendacities of politicians seamlessly into thoughtless think pieces and otherwise committing respectable reporting.

In fact, most hacks have a genuine liking and respect for such as Mr Klontz and his inventions. It has a lot to do with the trajectory of print media careers. The young would be reporter does on his or her NCTJ or media studies course hot to expose the powerful and bring down the mighty. Move onwards a few years, and the same young idealist is working for World of Polymers or Aggregates Monthly. Or he’s having opinions puked over him by bogus community leaders, self-aggrandizing CEOs and political numpties. He knows that everything they say is about as accurate as the news that Belgium has been destroyed by a rogue asteroid, without anyone noticing.

I know whereof I speak, but am not bitter. Instead there is a corner of my heart that has been taken over by martians. Within it stands a statue of a two-headed Elvis on which the name Eddie Clontz is carved in golden letters by a midget bat boy from Romania.