“Tabloid stories are about affairs of the heart—about why people do the things that they do, what could be their possible motivation.” Oscar-winning director Errol Morris was discussing Tabloid, his latest film, about a 1970s British-tabloid story involving blonde beauty Joyce McKinney’s alleged kidnapping and rape of a Mormon missionary. The story of Ms. McKinney, the compelling, dissembling, endlessly talkative tabloid queen Mr. Morris interviews, becomes a human-interest, rather than a meta-journalistic, one. So why place such importance on the tabloid newspapers’ coverage of the case?
“Are you joking with me?” Mr. Morris responded. (Ms. McKinney, after seeing the film, had asked Mr. Morris the same question.)
“I love tabloid journalism. I subscribed to the National Enquirer and the Weekly World News for years,” said Mr. Morris, who taught his son to read by sharing the News’s serialized tales of Bat Boy. Mr. Morris’s next film is even a fictional adaptation, in collaboration with Ira Glass, of a tabloidesque This American Life episode regarding cryogenic freezing.
But how does Mr. Morris regard Manhattan’s Gawker.com, whose editor, Nick Denton, is to host a party for the movie?
“Um—I think it’s all fine,” he demurred. Gawker is preferable, however, to the British tabloid currently in the news, the now-defunct News of the World.
“That’s journalism that has so little concern for the truth that in the process it defaces the truth—let’s take another step into the void—journalism with so little concern for the truth it destroys evidence.”
Yet, Mr. Morris defended the form: “Tabloid stories can be extraordinarily rich and interesting. They can be stories that make us wonder about the nature of people and why they do what they do. They can be a door into some extraordinary, unexplored universe.”
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