29 January 2004
Ed Anger buys the farm
Eddie Clontz, once (and maybe future who knows?) editor of the Weekly World News, has died in Salt Springs, Florida.
In 1979, the National Enquirer went legit, so to speak, and ponied up the bucks for color presses and whatnot; the owners wanted to get their money's worth out of the old gear, though, so the Weekly World News was created as a drain for stories not considered good enough for the Enquirer. Clontz, previously a staffer at the St. Petersburg Times, was hired in 1981 to spruce up the old clunker, and he hit upon the notion of printing stuff that no one could possibly believe. (Just in case you thought this was a New York Times innovation.)
The WWN, by any conventional standard, is an anti-newspaper, and Clontz, by all accounts, had a splendid time keeping it that way. His tiny staff of mostly non-journalists for instance, staff writer R. Neale Lind is perhaps better known for writing a gorgeously sappy love song back in the Sixties created a series of bogus bylines and recurring characters that moved half a million copies every seven days. And they got paid well for doing it, too: Clontz once observed that "we have to pay them a lot, because we are, in effect, asking them to end their careers. We're the French Foreign Legion of journalism."
Eddie Clontz was fifty-six years old, not quite the same age as Elvis Presley at his passing. (Elvis, according to the WWN, died on 14 May 1993, in Nashville, of complications from diabetes.) His paper, of course, will go on forever, or at least so long as people wonder about Bat Boy.
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