“Just This Great Distraction”

From tonight’s Nightline story on US Weekly (“Stars, Skin, Scandal: Secrets of US Weekly”):

“There was a lot of depressing news out there, obviously, beginning with 9/11 and then a prolonged involvement in Iraq and a presidency that a lot of people felt very upset about,” [US Weekly’s editor Janice] Min said. “I do feel like to some large degree, people look for escape and US Weekly was waiting for them. And it was just this great distraction from other issues out there.”

Other issues out there like… Madonna! Interviewed by Cynthia McFadden from Cannes on Thursday’s Nightline! Or any one of these recent Nightline segments (after just a quick scan of Nightline broadcasts in May thus far):

Clay Aiken. He may have come in second on American Idol, but now he’s topping of the charts. Who’s laughing now?

Pick your poison. Not one for a cute cat, how about a cobra? Why more and more people want the ugly, the pretty, the strange and the deadly. Inside the billion dollar business of exotic pets. (Eric Boehlert noted Nightline’s “obsession with pet stories” in his critique last fall of the show’s lack of Iraq coverage.)

Gone but not forgotten. Care to guess how much Elvis Presley made last year? We look at the top earners six feet under and still pulling down some serious green.

Down the aisle, down on the ranch. George Bush put Crawford, Texas, on the map. Now, the Jenna Bush wedding is the event of the year, but is this Crawford’s last hurrah?

Hot and holy. Is there anything in the bible that says married life can’t have some spice? Meet the pastors who turned the good book’s raunchy details into good tips for the bedroom.

Dirty laundry. Divorce in the age of the internet give anger an avenue. What would you do if your spurned spouse started a podcast?

You are what you eat. What if the foods you’re feeding your family isn’t really food?

Money talk. Is the taboo over discussing your salary breaking down? We take to the streets to find out who won’t tell and who will.

Nightline: it’s just like US? Not quite (in May so far Nightline has run three stories about the earthquake in China, one on Myanmar, two about gas prices, several about presidential politics, one on the mortgage crisis). Maybe more like People? Still too harsh, I suppose. But on many nights, Nightline’s opening voice-over which follows the teases for the broadcast’s two or three story segments (….from the global resources of ABC News, this is Nightline) feels like the greatest tease of all.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.