How the National Enquirer Made Its Readers Happy—and Sort of Created a Roadmap for Digital Journalism

The Enquirer in the 1970s.

From a brochure once sent to journalists to solicit stories for The National Enquirer, then America’s largest circulation newspaper.

Make Big Money: Freelance for The National Enquirer.

The Enquirer is an exciting, vibrant paper anxious to make you richer and the reader happier. Please take this opportunity to take part in making us even bigger and better.

What is The National Enquirer looking for? Great features, packed with emotion, color, and masses of good quotes.

Our stories make readers react. We should surprise them…excite them…make them laugh…make them cry…touch their hearts…and sometimes even make them angry. The great feature is one a reader will talk about.

The job starts with you, the reporter. The first step is to study your assignment and think of all the ways emotion can be used in it. Then go after the kind of moving, provocative quotes that will be needed to get a reader…a live human being…involved emotionally in the story. Grasp the story’s angle and make sure you get the kind of facts and quotes that will be needed to write an Enquirer story. It should go without saying that accuracy is of paramount importance. Constantly think of the reader.

Here are some guidelines to help make you a top Enquirer contributor.

COLOR. One of the chief purposes of color is to make unmistakably clear to the reader that our man was there on the scene. The reporter should collect plenty of specific detail about the place and the person or persons interviewed. Search for telling details that will either reflect the expected picture (the old sea captain’s home full of charts and nautical knicknacks) or that provide an unexpected contrast (the chorus girl with the classical music collection).

QUOTES. If the person is articulate, listen and record what’s said. Sharp quotes in the person’s exact language are often the meat of the story. Quotes should be not only be appropriate but believable. A Japanese carpenter should not sound like Ernest Hemingway.

PAGE ONE ROMANCES. This is the paper’s shop window. We need instantly recognizable names and faces of people in love. They must say they are in love. We don’t want scandal!

IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS. We want the finest names in the news. We want them to be candid, blunt, interesting. They will be celebrities, kings, politicians, national figures, leaders. What they say must grip, amaze, and educate the reader.

MEDICINE AND SCIENCE. We want to tell the reader about medical breakthroughs offering new hope, relief, and life. We want to know what top researchers and doctors have achieved now. Scientists are continually searching for ways to improve the things which affect our daily lives. In many cases their results are welcomed, in some they are feared.

MONEY APPEALS. America is the land of plenty. But not for all. There are families who just can’t cope with the overwhelming odds that illness or misfortune can create. No one has much sympathy for the person with his hand out, but people are willing to dig in for someone who is trying: the wife with a husband who can’t work because of illness and children suffering from disease or severe affliction. But despite it all she battles on. Don’t have the person ask for things…get them to tell the reader their dreams and their hopes. Don’t say, “We’re broke and we need money to buy a house in a better neighborhood.” Say, “My dream is that someday we’ll be able to get out of this rat hole and give Ricky a clean, warm bed…he deserves to die with a little dignity.”

ADVENTURE. What goes on inside the mind of a man hopelessly lost in the jungles of the Amazon? A mountaineer trapped and injured on a snowcapped peak? Many things race through the mind. They show a side of man most of us have not known. It is compelling to read and ask, “Could I have done it? Would I have given up and surrendered?”

PSYCHIC AND OCCULT PHENOMENA. Readers are fascinated by the remarkable and unexpected abilities of psychic healers, astrologers, those who can “see” into the future and others with unusual powers. We don’t mean the crackpots or the phonies—but those whose performances are documented, and whose achievements can be proved.

UFO SIGHTINGS AND ENCOUNTERS. We do not accept stories based on one witness unless he has the authority of a Barry Goldwater or a state governor. But we do investigate material when a number of responsible witnesses report their fascinating experiences.

GHOSTS. Many of our readers have had frightening or amusing experiences with strange spirits. They like to read about others who have had such experiences. Tell us about that haunted house or those ghostly reports.

GOVERNMENT WASTE. We hate to see the American taxpayers’ money being poured down the drain and we think our readers do too. Don’t sit seething because millions of dollars have been wasted by a stupid decision or yet another piece of bureaucratic incompetence. Tell us, make yourself some money, and in the process help expose the bungling.

CONSUMER INTEREST. Stories that affect our readers. They all eat, pay taxes, drive cars. We want to hear of developments and advice that helps them all…new products, how to live with inflation, what’s happening in the stores,

BY-LINERS. We’re ready to commission the biggest names in America to write for Enquirer readers. Let us know your idea for a topical, provoking article by a celebrity or famous person. We pay for ideas, not just stories, and we want to tap into your imagination and initiative.

SHORTS. Enquirer “shorts” are aimed to give the reader information—maps, charts, interesting statistical reports and analyses, medical pointers, and household tips.

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