Posted by: Tony Carson | 3 December, 2009

TIME quotes the National Inquirer

Is the National Inquirer real journalism?

Time magazine thinks so:

According to a claim in the National Enquirer, Rachel Uchitel has been having an affair with golf star Tiger Woods since June. Uchitel and Woods have denied the claim but have been unable to prevent widespread Internet chatter, which speculates that the jet-setting 34-year-old was the source of a fight between Woods and his wife Elin Nordegren that led to the golfer’s crashing his SUV outside his Florida mansion early on Nov. 27.

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t dismiss the National Inquirer as trash and then accept a quote from it as a bonafide news source, as Time is doing.

I have a reason for caring; I have a personal experience with the National Inquirer.

I was working for the Yukon Government 25 years ago when I got a call from an NI reporter in Florida. “A dog team beat a snowmobile in a race over the 400 miles along the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City.”

No, it couldn’t happen, I said, preemptively.

“No, no, you don’t understand. The dog team DID beat the snowmobile, I’m writing the story. I just don’t know how he did it. Tell me.”

It took awhile for it to sink in but I eventually understood and we worked out a quasi-plausible scenario that didn’t involve the death of the snowmobile or the snowmobiler.

But that’s how they did things back then, I was told. They sat around on Friday afternoons and dreamed up impossible/implausible storylines, then challenged the writer to make it work.

I thought about that when I read Time quoting the National Inquirer in the Tiger Woods fiasco. Either NI has come a long way or Time magazine is pegging its stories to pretty flimsy sources.

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