Why Jersey Is the Perfect Home for the Latest Era of Satirical Tabloid Weekly World News

An exciting film studio and the new movie shot there, Zombie Wedding, are poised to put Vineland on the map. (Plus, we've got Manasquan mermen and the Pine Barrens-based Jersey Devil!)

Weekly World News

Nine million people call the Garden State home. But New Jersey is also a home of sorts to a boy-bat hybrid, an ape who holds a PhD, and at least one mermaid. These are just some of the hundreds of characters in Weekly World News (WWN), a satirical tabloid that launched in 1979. A cultural touchpoint, Weekly World News has collected mentions from Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Weird Al Yankovic, Travis Scott and more big names.

While WWN has not been a print publication since 2007, it continues to regularly post articles online. However, the tabloid has entered a new era over the last half decade under CEO and editor-in-chief Greg D’Alessandro. And that new era is largely New Jersey-based.

Since D’Alessandro, 63, took over in 2019, WWN has expanded into film projects, opening its own studio in Vineland, and securing a project deal with Warner Bros.

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Although WWN draws on the national fascination with cryptids, tall tales and legends, D’Alessandro, a resident of Ho-Ho-Kus, says New Jersey is the perfect home for it, especially given the lore of the mysterious Jersey Devil. “The Pine Barrens are close to Vineland,” he says. “There’s a lot of fun to be had there, because the Jersey Devil is from the Pine Barrens.” An upcoming project, written with Japanese director Lisa Takeba, will focus on mermen in Manasquan, based on a series of WWN stories.

New Jersey features prominently in the first WWN Studios film, Zombie Wedding, which has already screened in film festivals and has a wider release planned for this summer. The movie was entirely shot and set in Vineland, a town of roughly 60,000 in Cumberland County, about an hour south of Philadelphia. Produced with the full support of the town, the project injected more than $800,000 into Vineland’s economy. “I made Vineland a character in the movie,” D’Alessandro says. Over the coming months and years, D’Alessandro hopes to solidify a presence in New Jersey, partly by attracting more projects to WWN Studios. He also plans to train film students at Rowan College of South Jersey in Vineland.

As D’Alessandro charts a new course for the company, he draws on a distinct understanding of its style, having himself written 5,000 of its articles since 1999. “I had seen it, like everyone else, in the ’90s in supermarkets and grocery stores,” he says. “And the headlines were just wacky and surreal.”

D’Alessandro says that WWN’s out-of-this-world appeal offers a contrast to frustrations some people have with the way the news covers real-life events. But even that has shifted in recent years. “The term ‘fake news’ became popular in 2016, from Donald Trump, obviously,” says D’Alessandro. “But we were never called fake news before….We were just sometimes satire, or playful news. Then we started getting calls: ‘Oh, were you guys the original fake news?’…It has such negative connotations. But that’s not us. We’re just this playful, fun publication.”

At the root of WWN is a nonpartisan approach that separates it from competitors like the Onion or the right-leaning Babylon Bee. “[WWN] was very imaginative, and straight-on fun,” D’Alessandro recalls. “It didn’t really have an agenda either side, one way or another, right or left.”

Daniel Greenman is a reporter at the Martha’s Vineyard Times.

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