A History of the "National Enquirer"

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Arthur Kaul

Advisor Department

Mass Communication and Journalism


The practice of exaggerating and sensationalizing stories to win an audience is probably as old as storytelling itself. The practice of embellishing stories in print, likewise, shortly followed the invention of the press. By the early 1800s, London's James Catnach and his competitors were selling hundreds of thousands of single-sided "broadsides" telling of "real or catch-penny accounts of murders, impossible robberies, delusive suicides, dark deeds and public executions..." The art of spinning a good yarn, with or without much reference to the facts, continued in America with the penny press and yellow Journalism of 19th century and "jazz journalism," starting in the 1920s. The latest incarnation of sensationalized journalism began in 1952 when Generoso Pope Jr. purchased the anemic New York Enquirer . Pope immediately set about changing the format of the paper (from broadsheet to tabloid) and it from an attempt at real news to blood and gore). Circulation soared to 1 million within a few years, but then it stalled. Recognizing the potential of selling his paper in supermarkets, Pore switched the editorial focus to celebrity news and self-help stories and, at one point, was selling more than 6 million copies a week. The circulation of Pope's paper, known since 1957 as the National Enquirer , has shrunk by about two-thirds since then, but its new editor and owners are trying to reshape and reinvigorate the product. This is a history of what led to the development of the tabloid press and the influence it may have had on other publications. The shift of the tabloid press of the 1950s from blood and acre to covering celebrities and providing information on such self-help projects as diets is discussed, as is the tabloids' later move toward covering politicians if not politics. And in addition to discussion of has happened in this area of journalism so far, there is a little speculation about what might be ahead.