Pop Culture

Blame aliens! Weekly World News shuts down

An angel of death has visited Earth! Aliens have pulled off an abduction! A mystery ailment has claimed a victim!

Weekly World News, the tabloid that for 28 years has chronicled sightings of Elvis, extraterrestrial activity and the exploits of Bat Boy, is no more. Its publisher said Tuesday it would put out its last issue next month, maintaining only a Web presence.

What does it mean for a black-and-white staple that has delivered news of such historical proportions as Bigfoot’s capture of a lumberjack he kept as his love slave and the merman found in the South Pacific? Stay tuned. One thing’s for sure: Americans’ waits in supermarket checkouts will forever be changed.

The tabloid’s publisher, American Media Inc., issued a brief statement that announced the Aug. 27 issue would be Weekly World News’ last. It called the closure necessary “due to the challenges in the retail and wholesale magazine marketplace that have impacted the newsstand.”

For all the headlines WWN has penned, it has also made headlines of its own. In 2001’s deadly anthrax mailings, AMI’s office in Boca Raton was targeted and a photo editor was killed. Since then, it has tended to lighter fare, including recent headlines “Mother Nature Endorses Gore for President” and “Why Moses Wandered in the Desert for 40 Years: He Lost the Map!”

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AMI, which is based in Boca Raton and New York, did not immediately respond to questions seeking specifics on layoffs, circulation and business woes or plans for a final issue. The company only said WWN was the smallest of its publications, which include Star, National Enquirer and Men’s Fitness.

Like nearly every media company, AMI has felt financial strain in recent years. It laid off about 50 workers last year, and last month announced it would explore the sale of five of its publications. In its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, for the fourth quarter of 2006, it posted a loss of about $310 million in operating income, in part blamed on trademark issues and office moving expenses.

One of WWN’s writers, Bob Greenberger, did not return a telephone call seeking comment, but he wrote on his blog that the paper’s staff was alerted of the closure Friday.

“The reasons given make no sense,” he wrote. “We’re stunned and shell-shocked.”

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