February 9, 2019

An editor's confession

Sam Smith - Since confessing past sins seems to be a big thing in politics these days, I thought I would join the fun, especially since the National Enquirer is a major target.

Back the mid-1960s when a friend at the respectable Congressional Quarterly called your editor with news that a mutual acquaintance -- a deputy editor at the National Enquirer -- was looking for a Washington column. The Enquirer was willing to pay $800 a week -- an enormous sum at the time albeit some of it intended for loosening lips. My friend's scheme was brilliant. Four of us would write under a single pseudonym. Thus we could all keep our day jobs while writing one quarter of a column for a fee greater than my recent salary as a Coast Guard lieutenant.

For five hours, we sat in the dark, dignified dining hall of the Mayflower Hotel discussing the project with the tabloid's chief editor, a small, dapper Englishman who moved from national politics to the importance of dog stories in perfect segue. We sold each other on ourselves and the three other conspirators -- all of whom worked for Congressional Quarterly -- returned to broach the subject with their publisher, Nelson Poynter. Poynter pointedly responded that they could either work for CQ or for the Enquirer but not for both. That was the end of the project.

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