Buzzfeed published a really fascinating analysis of just how In Touch Weekly managed to change the gossip around the Duggars by doing some old-fashioned leg work and genuine investigative reporting. In Touch broke the Duggar family’s scandals wide open, and it will be interesting/funny to see if the Duggars actually do try to sue Bauer Media. But within this Buzzfeed piece, there’s some interesting little tidbits sprinkled in, about how gossip is cultivated, the narratives being driven by the editors, and how certain stories are “sourced.” If you like the insider-y media gossip stories, this is a good read – go here for the full piece. Some assorted piece of information:
In Touch & other tabloids will pay for gossip tips: “The money,” of course, is what In Touch and the rest of the tabloids are willing to pay for tips, documents, and leads — a practice that’s frowned upon in mainstream American journalism circles, but an accepted and long-standing tradition in Europe, where the National Enquirer began poaching reporters from in the 1970s. Today, the National Enquirer homepage lures tipsters with the promise to EARN BIG BUCK$$$$!; In Touch’s “Hot Celebrity Tip Box” makes no mention of payoffs, but current Editorial Director David Perel acknowledges that they do pay for certain stories, and part of In Touch’s stigma stems from its willingness to pay for truly worthwhile tips and stories.
The Golden Age of Gossip, 2002-2008: In Touch piqued that fascination by manufacturing elaborate, multipart, melodramatic narratives — the stuff of soap operas. Which made sense: The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Richard Spencer, came directly from Soap Opera Update. Several former employees remember Spencer laying out a four-act cover drama for what would happen between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the beginning of each month — a pregnancy, for example, followed by a breakup scare, a reconciliation, and then marriage rumors.
How In Touch (and other tabloids) source their stories: The beats of the drama may have been fictionalized, but it was easy to find sources — including rival publicists, other celebrities, former friends, estranged family — to support the claims. Still, according to Jo Piazza, who served as executive editor at In Touch from 2012 to 2014, “the majority of the stories were true…They were double-sourced. It’s just that those sources were celebrities and publicists,” and then referred to as “a source close to the family” or “a friend.” It’s not that In Touch made things up; it’s that the publicists and family members and celebrities themselves did.
Kim Kardashian used to give tips to In Touch: Several former employees confirmed that before Kim Kardashian’s sex tape with Ray J was leaked in 2007, Kim served as a source for In Touch stories, providing a steady stream of information on Paris Hilton. (A spokesperson for Kardashian states that the claim is “absolutely false.”)
In Touch isn’t paying for Duggar tips: In the three weeks since first breaking the scoop, In Touch has chased the story relentlessly. And while In Touch acknowledges paying for stories, it seems that payoffs had no place in the Duggar scoop: just attention to the tip hotline and old-school legwork. Egusquiza (who refused to comment for this story) told The Advocate that “one tipster led to another, and then another,” but the smoking gun — and what differentiated the scoop from tipster-supported fodder that makes up so much of In Touch — was the documents.
I totally believe Kim used to tip off In Touch Weekly about Paris Hilton. I also believe Kim – and other members of the clan, mostly Kris Jenner – still “tip off” the tabloids about certain stories too. Also, you’ve got to love what’s unspoken about In Touch’s “double-sourcing” technique. Basically, they’re saying that if a celebrity or publicist had an axe to grind about another celebrity, they would just use whatever they said.
The Buzzfeed piece also answered some questions I had about just how quickly In Touch managed to turn around their reputation by going full-throttle at the Duggars. Last year, Bauer started shifting around senior editors and David Perel, a tabloid veteran from Star and the National Enquirer, was brought in. Perel had overseen the Enquirer’s John Edwards story, which was a journalistic scoop for that tabloid. When Perel came to In Touch, he started replacing the soap-opera writers with tried-and-true tabloid journalists with backgrounds in investigative reporting. So, that explains it.
Covers courtesy of In Touch Weekly.