Sunday, May 15, 2011

Give Us Dirty Laundry and a Headline

By Kimberly Johnson

Yeah. It feels good, in a seedy-Boogie-Nights (the movie) kinda way. Dirty never felt better.

That’s right. I flip through the pages of The Enquirer and Star magazine when I am in the checkout line at Piggly Wiggly. Where do you think I get my news about Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan?

I blame my fascination on the nameless editor’s well-scripted headlines. British-based The Sun is king of the trashy tales. Check out this headline: “Lusty Louise lured boy 15, for sex.” Here in the States, The Enquirer is prince of all rags with titillating titles like “Oprah Hits 246 pounds” and “Winona ‘Sticky Fingers’ Ryder at it again” (2010). My favorite is the duke of the dirty dish, The Globe, with headlines such as “Hillary’s Claw Marks” (1999) and “Nastiest Divorces of 2010.”

Let’s face it, tabloid articles are a long way from being credible outlets of information. I thought about it…Is there a book or something to teach you how to write like this? Because, somebody has to be writing this stuff and getting paid for it.

The answer is yes. The book: Tabloid Prodigy: Dishing the Dirt, Getting the Gossip and Selling My Soul in the Cutthroat World of Hollywood Reporting. The author: Marlise Kast. While surfing the Web, I found a 2007 National Public Radio’s podcast in which Kast details trade secrets and questions her moral compass. She recounted how she applied for a writing job at the Globe magazine as an unemployed college graduate. Despite no journalism credentials, Kast emerged as a quick study and learned the cunning craft of rag writing.

Here’s an excerpt from an encounter with Madeline, the editor. In this scene, Madeline gives the novice writer some advice.

“ …I like your enthusiasm. But you've got to think headlines. Headlines, Marlise! Like here, for example.

She pointed toward my idea of an interview with Anthony Hopkins about his upcoming role in The Edge.

“Obviously Hopkins is not going to give us an interview, nor would we want one. Find out something else that is going on around him. I think you're headed in the right direction."

"Marlise," she said, shaking her head. "We are a tabloid magazine. We want scandal."

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