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Gossip A-Go-Go

How The National Enquirer Vets Gay Sex Stories

Obviously intrigued by the glut of John Travolta gay-masseuse-sex stories coming out  in the tabloids as of late, Gawker’s Maureen O’Connor decided to look into the National Enquirer‘s fact-checking processes. Though she spoke to a few staffers at the Enquirer and its sister tabloid Star who admitted many of their stories were utterly wrong, she seems to have come away impressed with the rigor involved in going after big scoops like the Travolta stories. Sources touting scandalous revelations are routinely given polygraph tests by a former FBI interrogator. No joke.

Writes O’Connor:

“The polygraph is an insurance policy that our lawyers like,” Star editor James Heidenry explained to me. Star‘s third editor-in-chief in little over a year, Heidenry was not on staff during Mr. Clean’s negotiation, but spoke broadly about the magazine’s tactics. “We like to get them too, to be confident with the story and reach a comfort level with it, and to protect ourselves against legal action.” If a story failed the polygraph test, “we would ditch it,” he concluded.

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INTERVIEW: Michael Lewittes on Becoming a Gossip Cop

Long before e-mail bulletins, tweets and Drudge Report siren headlines, there were alpha-numeric pagers and pay phones. As veteran east coast journalist Michael Lewittes recalls, these now antiquated devices played a key role in one of his earliest moments of reporter triumph.

“One night I was out to dinner and drinks with New York’s police commissioner and deputy commissioner,” Lewittes (pictured) tells FishbowlLA. “Across the pagers came the message that Tupac Shakur has been shot (not when he was murdered, but a previous shooting).”

“I got the scoop,” he continues. “I had to drop a quarter in a pay phone to call the desk at the New York Daily News. Just a few hours later, I was on the subway — en route to work — and the riders were reading the Daily News and our rivals, the New York Post. But only the Daily News had the Tupac exclusive that he had been shot outside of a recording studio on the West Side in New York. And it remained a Daily News exclusive all day long on the radio and news broadcasts.”

“Naturally, today that story would have been picked up in a split second, spread across the globe, and no one would have known it was broken by the Daily News.”

The era of “hat tip” entertainment journalism is replete with theft, cacophonous forward-momentum and miraculously scrubbed errant reports. Which for Lewittes, who moved on from the Daily News to Cosmopolitan, the Post, US Weekly and Access Hollywood, frames his latest gig. Since 2009, he has been calling out bad entertainment reporting on his well-respected website gossipcop.com. And he has, in part, Perez Hilton to thank for this.

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A Whirlwind of Ryan Gosling ‘News’

One of the most effective current ways to generate sexy Web traffic numbers is to insert actor Ryan Gosling into the mix. Whether any other detail in the report is confirmed is besides the point.

Over the weekend, UK’s The Daily Mail floated the idea that he was breaking up with girlfriend Eva Mendes (since denied via US Weekly). Meanwhile, across the English channel, French artist Pascal Witasek mocked up a poster of what the Disney biopic Walt might look like if the actor was cast in the lead role.

But the wildest Gosling “news” trail of the past few days was sparked Monday in Auckland, New Zealand. After a clothing store tweeted that the actor had paid a visit, citizens went wild, locally trending the hashtag #NZGoslingHunt on Twitter and generating MSM media coverage with their efforts.

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