Paul Greenberg

American Media, owner of Weekly World News, is shutting down the grocery-store tabloid that once exposed 12 U.S. senators as space aliens. That's right: There were only 12 back then. Long before The Onion, the W.W.N. was reporting the whereabouts of Elvis (Kalamazoo, Mich.) and publishing photos of Heaven taken by the Hubble telescope. Some of its headlines will remain classics. For example, "Dead Rock Stars Return on Ghost Plane" and "Crazed Dieter Mistakes Dwarf for Chicken!" But now its circulation has fallen under 90,000 and this week's will be its last issue.

How come? According to the dead-serious news release, the paper will be folded "due to the challenges in the retail and wholesale magazine marketplace." What does that mean, exactly? Maybe it's a corporate exec's way of saying that the so-called real news is already so outrageous that fiction can't compete with it. Or maybe the Weekly World News has actually been kidnapped by space aliens and we're not being told. We wouldn't be surprised. By anything we read in a grocery-store tabloid.

Whatever the reason for the demise of the W.W.N., we're going to miss headlines like "Headless Body in Topless Bar." Oops, that was the New York Post. All these tabloids tend to blur in the mind.

With tabloids, the more outrageous the news the better. What makes them so amusing? It's their talent for parodying those of us in the oh-so-serious "profession" of journalism. Picking one up is like listening again to Edward R. Murrow's sonorous old "This Š I Believe" deepthink series of radio essays by generic Ordinary Americans - only not as maddening. Since the humor of mock tabloids like The Onion is intentional.

Xinhua, Communist China's news agency, reports that Beijing is going to regulate reincarnation in Tibet, one of the world's longest occupied countries. The commissars in Beijing have had it with these living Buddhas popping up all over the place, so the State Administration for Religious Affairs in that officially atheist country is to have the final say-so on which Buddhas may reincarnate where.

It's not enough for the "People's Republic" to assert control over every thought on the Chinese mainland and environs, now it's going to keep a tight rein on the next world, too. It's all kind of funny - if you don't have to live in a country monitored by Big Brother.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.