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A Times Editorial

Undergrads take stab at tabs!

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000

No matter what you may think of the content of their stories, tabloids such as the National Enquirer and the Weekly World News have their attributes, including great headlines, solid copy editing and eye-catching page designs. Anybody can write a story about the three-headed space alien who fathered Demi Moore's love child, but it takes a talented, experienced journalist to present that story in a way that will make readers pay attention.

And because talented, experienced journalists are in short supply, we won't join the critics of the arrangement under which Boca Raton-based American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, Weekly World News and other tabloids, will provide $2,500 scholarships and paid summer jobs to 12 Florida Atlantic University students each year. The FAU students who accept the deal won't necessarily be stigmatized for life.

The tabloids have evolved over the years. Today, some of American Media's publications specialize in tawdry -- and sometimes true -- stories about entertainers, royalty and JonBenet Ramsey. Others focus on more fanciful tales about extraterrestrials, Elvis sightings and other effluvia.

Notwithstanding the letter writers who occasionally compare the St. Petersburg Times to the National Enquirer, we and other mainstream newspapers aren't likely to start recruiting our reporters from the tabloids any time soon. But a good headline writer is a good headline writer, whether she's handling a story about Beirut or Bigfoot. And a copy editor who has mastered spelling, grammar and syntax will be in demand, even if that mastery was developed while editing Dear Dotti.

Boca Raton is the world's tabloid capital, and the profitable publications based there should be finding ways to serve as solid corporate citizens. Scholarships for students at the local university are a good place to start. An internship at the Weekly World News isn't the traditional way for an aspiring journalist to spend the summer, but it shouldn't be enough to offend the memory of Joseph Pulitzer -- last reported living under an assumed identity on a remote island off the coast of Greece.

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