June 28, 2013

Tabloid whispering for fun and profit

Another former Paula Deen employee has surfaced to accuse the crispy-fried foodie of still more buttery, flaky bigotry. The venue: The National Enquirer. The gist: That Deen uses the n-word on the regular. And some other not-real-nice words, too.

Per the Enquirer, the source, Mincey McDonald, has passed a polygraph test regarding her allegations. Does that mean she’s telling the truth? Maybe.

Or maybe not.

Longtime readers of mine already know that tabloids often pay for information from less-than-reliable sources. But what you may not know is that these rags also order up specific information, or even custom quotes, for a price...whether that information is true or not.

I recently spoke to a very plugged-in Hollywood insider who explained to me how the process can work.

  1. A tabloid purchases the rights to a juicy-looking paparazzi photo. The photo may suggest that the subject is mildly annoyed, a tad angry or full-on Courtney Love. The photo may also be a fluke--a lone snapshot in a roll of 30 happy images–but no matter. It’s a promising start.
  2. The tabloid then calls a source it has on payroll. This source is technically connected to a star, but often only in the most rickety of ways–say, the next-door neighbor of a star’s gardener.
  3. The tabloid reporter shares plans for a story crafted around the aforementioned juicy paparazzi image. Popular insinuations: a breakup, plastic surgery, drug abuse, or general out-of-control diva-ness.
  4. The reporter and the source craft a quote together. The source then agrees to be the official originator of the quote–off the record, of course. The source will never be named. But if anyone ever questions the validity of the story, the reporter can say, with truth, that a source provided the quote. Or at least signed off on it.
  5. The tabloid then pays the source an amount based on the value of the quote. The amount is usually in the hundreds.

Does that mean that the Enquirer used this particular method to rustle up Deen’s latest accuser? Probably not; Deen herself has admitted to using hate speech. And the Enquirer’s source was on the record, with a name and dates of employment and everything–not the usual M.O. for inaccurate gossip-mongering.

But next time you crack open a tabloid, know that the sources therein just may be earning more per week than you.

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