The idea for The Inquirer came to me in line at the grocery store. My eyes are always drawn to the headlines of the tabloids. Celebrities, politicians, business gurus, and anyone tangled amidst are at their mercy. The scandalous leads make me feel a bit anxious, and the positive ones are fewer and in smaller print. Tabloids seem like carnival mirrors of real life.
Why is our curiosity piqued by the tabloids? Retractions and contradictions are common. We don’t know these people, and they don’t know us. The celebrity names common in most households are as real as Harry Potter and James Bond. Then again, some may argue that other means of entertainment – like watching movies, reading fiction, or playing video games – aren’t any more valuable uses of our time.
The headlines make me wonder what is true and what the subjects think when they see the tabloids. What do their friends, family, and neighbours think? Perhaps it’s the degree of separation between the subjects and readers that allows justifications like ‘they chose this life’ and ‘they’re used to it.’ I also wonder what I would think. I don’t mean if I were a famous actress caught wearing an outdated gown, hooking up with a model on a yacht, or gambling away $250,000 in Vegas. What would I think if the local newspaper of my small town was profiting from sensationalized articles about me?
The Inquirer was originally written as the final assignment for my Master of Creative Writing. I started by exploring various perspectives on tabloids, including of those who don’t have ethical debates with themselves in lines at grocery stores. For example, my eighty-some-year-old grandma who used to buy a couple tabloids per week. I purchased my first.
I researched legal ways to write over-the-top stories and the history of such reporting. Tabloids started as failing newspapers that were purchased and transformed to reflect popular taste, earning big profits. Publications have been charged for blackmailing potential subjects unless they paid for advertisements, and celebrities have successfully sued tabloids for libel. Celebrities have also used tabloids as a marketing tool. Tabloids can be a fun way to escape for bits of time with their easy-to-read and concise style. By the end of my research, I knew more rumours about Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and baby George than I ever thought I would.
I graduated with distinction. And now Newest Press has given me the opportunity to inspire more readers to ponder tabloids while they wait in line at the grocery store. On a deeper level, perhaps some will think twice about when to speak up and when to be quiet. At the very least, I hope readers of The Inquirer are entertained.