This is the cover of the new issue of US Weekly - what really happened on the plane last September to kick off World War Brange. The most interesting thing about this story, however, has nothing to do with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. As you know, Wenner Media sold US Weekly to American Media Inc, the company that also publishes The National Enquirer, Star, OK!, and Radar Online. The sale was finalised last week. Which means that this is the first proper issue of US Weekly under new ownership.
When the deal between AMI and Wenner Media was announced, many US Weekly reporters and staff members were let go. And, as I’ve mentioned several times already, when you let go of the reporters, you also say goodbye to their sources. What sources, then, were used for this new Brange story when, really, all the people who had legit Hollywood connections have already left the magazine?
Joyce Chen was the staff editor at US Weekly until last week. Yesterday she wrote an essay for Paste explaining why, even though she was one of the few who was offered the opportunity to keep her job under new management, she decided to leave the magazine. If you care about how gossip works, and the difference between how stories are reported and how stories are made (up) this is required reading and an excellent companion article to the Anne Helen Petersen piece for Buzzfeed that I linked to earlier this week about why it matters that The National Enquirer and US Weekly are now sister publications – not just for accuracy about who’s f-cking who and who cheated on the other but what the quality of that kind of reporting reflects back to us about the conversations we’re having in our real lives, who we are, collectively, in our real lives.
As Dylan Howard, who’s been running The National Enquirer since 2013 and who has since taken over at US weekly, told Anne Helen Petersen, the focus now is about “servicing” the gossip consumer – basically about giving them what they want. So it all comes back to that phrase that Duana taught me all those years ago, the one I drop over and over again on this site: in writing and in reporting, you give them what they need, and not what they want.
Dylan Howard’s prioritising of “servicing” the readers is in direct opposition to that tenet. The National Enquirer gives them what they WANT, not what they NEED. And US Weekly? Going forward, and starting from this new Brange cover story, US Weekly might now be more fan fiction than good gossip.
Yours in gossip,