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5 August 1999

Howler history: When Melinda met Erich

Synopsis: Howler history! When Melinda Henneberger researched Love Story, a great urban legend was born.

Author of ‘Love Story’ Disputes Gore Story (Hint: Jenny Wasn’t Tipper)
Melinda Henneberger, The New York Times, 12/14/97

Those analysts! You know they're simply indefatigable—devoted to their crucial research. But here on the sprawling campus of DAILY HOWLER World Headquarters, in the gently rolling foothills of Baltimore County's horse country, we do believe that all work and no play makes analysts dull girls and dull boys. So we've sent them off for a summer weekend, with orders to put their studies aside—although we suspect they'll periodically head up from the beach to see what Lori Stokes might be doing. And for fun, they'll run their tapes of Gennifer Flowers on the inventive cable show Hardball this past Monday, telling a TV tabloid talker all about Clinton's murders. (She couldn't quite explain how she knew they'd occurred, but if you go to her web site she said you'll find out.) And about how people from the White House call nightclub owners to get her show biz gigs called off, although she didn't have the name of the person who made the calls in front of her right at that moment. Darn! She said she'd get back to a tabloid talker with the information that had understandably slipped her mind.

Yep. The analysts love to watch the gong show—that great gong show we call our "public discourse." And they thrill to watch the clownish talkers acting out the greatest truth: Nothing's Changed. Nothing has changed since the dawn of the west, when Socrates of Athens, The Greatest of Greeks, said democracy would be a constant struggle because our discourse would be ruled by the sophists. They'd use their considerable skills, he said, to have the public confused all the time. Alas! Little did The Great Greek know, dear friends, that one day they'd have their own talk shows!

Anyway, as the analysts headed off to play, they asked us to leave you some HOWLER history—a look back to the time when Melinda Henneberger first affected the current discourse. Since we've been taking a look, in the last few weeks, at the New York Times' brilliant comic and seer, they thought we might remind our readers of Henneberger's past work on Love Story. Two years ago, our sprawling campus was under construction when Henneberger researched the nascent flap, but her crafty writing helped gimmick the story that is still often cited today. How does our press corps gimmick the stories that litter our public discourse today? Look through our past work on Love Story, friends, and we'll be back with new topics next week:

THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/30/99: Somehow, Maureen Dowd knew the motive for Al Gore's remark on Love Story.

THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/31/99: Melinda Henneberger discovered that Gore was misquoted. She buried it deep in her story.

THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/1/99: A week after Henneberger "reported" the facts, Sam and Cokie didn't seem to have heard them.


THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/21/99: Thanks to Henneberger's original work, the silly tale's still the talk of the town.


It's unmistakable: today's ace scribes will do what they can to keep a pleasing story alive. What kept the Love Story gong show going? Henneberger's hapless reporting.