Hardly anyone admits reading the supermarket tabloids,
but someone—other than movie star publicists who "leak" information to
the tabloids to create controversy—must be reading them because the
combined weekly circulation for the six major weekly newspapers is more
than 10 million.
I read the tabloids.
Usually, I read The National Enquirer and, occasionally, one of the other tabs. I seldom read the Weekly World News because in the USA Today world of splashy color and flashy graphics, the black and white Weekly World News front page just doesn't measure up.
Nevertheless, it was a hot August afternoon when I went into the
local air‑conditioned supermarket to cool down and, perhaps, to find a
few of the 30,000 advertised items that could translate into dinner for
six, including two German Shepherds. (The pot-bellied pig came later.)
Apparently, I wasn't the only one that afternoon who figured out how to
get free air conditioning. The checkout lines were longer than a
politician's lies, so there was only one thing to do.
I guessed I'd be able to read most of the 15 magazines and six
newspapers in the "you got to buy this" point of purchase racks by the
time it was my turn. I also figured that my two sons would have
graduated from college, moved out of the house, although still needing
weekly "loans," and had grandchildren by the time I finished checking
Thus, it was in the checkout line that I learned from the Weekly World News that
a space alien had come to earth in 1992 to advise presidential
candidate Bill Clinton. The alien had already advised President George
Bush and Reform Party candidate Ross Perot early in the Summer, but had
to wait until after the Democratic convention to find out which of the
donkeys was going to run.
Being the alert reporter I am, I was upset that a competitor had
scooped me on what could have been the most important news of the week.
Just a couple of weeks earlier, I had covered the first Clinton Gore
bus tour of America, and no one mentioned anything about an alien.
Obviously, the Secret Service had covered it up once again.
That evening, Rick Renn, my nephew from Georgia, called. He had
just read the space alien article, and knew I would be interested. The
evidence was overwhelming. There were now at least two people who
recognized good journalism. It was time to act.
For a few years, usually when I had too much time and not enough
sense, I thought about writing a weekly newspaper column. It would be a
great catharsis of what I proudly knew to be a warped mind, fertilized
now and then by my wife. With only 23,000 other columnists trying to
pitch their own catharses, I figured there was room for another 700-800
words a week, especially since newspapers appeared to be desperate for
features. How else could anyone explain why they publish gossip columns
and capsule summaries of soap operas?
Thus was born "Wanderings," a column that probes a small particle
of society. Sometimes it's a satire; sometimes a wistful essay or a
hard-hitting investigative report. Sometimes it looks into politics, the
environment, health care, recreation, or whatever needs to be probed
that week. About one-third the columns have a media focus. Occasionally,
the media are the central focus, sometimes a supporting player, often
an extra. But the media are always there; lurking; sometimes playful,
sometimes annoying; but most importantly, informing, persuading, and
Sex and the Single Beer Can is a compilation of many of
those media‑related columns. Most of the columns have been
significantly revised for book publication. After all, each medium has
its own language, structure, and parameters. Besides, newspaper columns
stay around a couple of days, while books remain on the shelves, unread,
No one book—nor for that matter all the books about
the mass media currently in print— can explain everything a reader needs
to know about the mass media. However, these unique mini-case studies
"slices-of-life" that comprise Sex and the Single Beer Can do present an understanding not just of the media, but of people in the media and others affected by the media. By understanding the broad perspective presented in Sex and the Single Beer Can , it's possible to better understand the nature of mass media.
For more than 30 years I have been proud to be a journalist. I
believe in the American media and in the people I am pleased to call my
colleagues and friends. For the number of obstacles business,
government, and public institutions put into their paths, the media
overall do a splendid job. But, like any institution, the media have
their problems, some inherent within their own structures. As a media
critic and satirist, I have a responsibility to examine the media,
hoping that by bringing the excesses and problems to light—something
every journalist strives to do—the media will do an even better job of
helping Americans better understand their own lives and issues that
Read the columns. A few now; a few later. No one will rat on you
if you read them out of order or if you fall asleep while reading the
one column that has the secrets of the universe.
Many may wonder where the sex and beer are that the title
promises. It's a logical question—after all, the Introduction talks
about the origin of the column and its relationship with the tabloids.
Like tabloid headlines, book titles are meant to grab readers; more than
half of all paperback books are sold on the basis of the title and
cover design. In this case, the title is meant to grab two specific
readers—my sons, Jeffrey and Matthew Gerber, wonderful children who
usually enjoy my columns, usually don't read my books, but are fond of
what the book title promises. Let them search this book, reading every
column until they find what the title promises. For the rest of my
readers, there really is a column about sex and beer; more important, it
is a key discussion about one part of the media and of the American
While reading this book, I hope you find yourself not only
informed, entertained, and persuaded, but also mentally stimulated and
ready to act against stupidity and injustice .
Critical Praise from Journalism Professors
"In Sex and the Single Beer Can, Walt Brasch is both
refreshingly irreverent and irreverently fresh. Little escapes his
attention. This is a book about the media, politics, government, war,
political incorrectness, religion, the injustice system, the health
industry, and other corporations, Miss America, and yes, sex and beer.
He ties these subjets together under and double-barreled heading of the
foibles and strengths of American society. His approach is both biting
criticism and healthy respect, both creative imagination and deep
understanding. Most of all, Sex and the Single Beer Can is a plea for a
better media and a better place in which to live.
Because it is broad in its scope, it's also suitable for a variety of
journalism/mass communication classes either as a primary or secondary
text. It could add important perspectives to classes in ethics, media
management, media economics, media and society, media criticism and a
variety of other subjects of journalistic interest."
— Dr. Ralph Izard, associate dean, Manship
School of Journalism, Louisiana State University; professor emeritus and
former director, Scripps School of Journalism, The Ohio University
"Effective and powerful. In Dave Barryesque fashion, Brasch
weaves sights, sounds, feelings, and attitudes into clever, playful,
entertaining essays. Brasch provides an excellent guide for students
trying to learn the art of writing. For a teacher, this collection
offers models of tone, dialogue, description, narrative voice, and point
— Beverly Pitts, provost and professor of journalism, Ball State University
"Insightful, readable and tightly written."
— R. Thomas Berner, head, journalism program, Pennsylvania State
"A pleasant respite from the overly academic dissections of
media events that allows the reader to learn thorugh laughter. A great
book of readings for students who are trying to learn how to tell it
like it is."
— Pat Heilman, chair, Department of Journalism, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Critical Praise from the Media
"Skewers the American media [in a] satiric romp [that is]
hilariously funny and deadly serious. You will never read a newspaper or
magazine, listen to the radio, or watch a movie or TV in the same way
— Sally Mattero, Koen Books
"Satire is a dying art [but] Brasch has rekindled some and
directed it against the media. For those seeking an insider's look at
the media with the irreverence of the public, this is, above all, a book
— Jeff Inglis, Burlington, Vt., Mountainview
"Brasch Illuminates the dark, and often absurd, sides of
society and the media with a style that invites laughter and encourages
the reader to look beyond reality to the truth."
— Nancy Baumgartner, Williamsport Sun-Gazette
"Wonderfully humorous essays."
— Lee Lawrence, WFPR-AM, Hammond, La.
"Exposes some of the most common journalistic foibles, and the
impact they can have on the way the rest of society sees the world
around them. Nothing is safe or sacred."
— Jane Alison Havsy, American Reporter
"Interesting, refreshing and...highly irreverent...Includes a
potpourri of down-to-earth stories about America, some twisted
completely out of shape by the media when they first took place."
— Hazleton Standard-Speaker
Walter Brasch is. . .
"The most informed, opinionated, witty, and delightful commentator on the media scene today."
— John Noonan, Aspen Media Review
"Entertaining and informative, and fun for everyone."
— WLW-AM, Cincinnati
"A real treat to interview. He has a wonderful way of cutting through the media hype to clarify the 'real' culture."
— Jack Holcomb, WEEU-AM, Reading, Pa.
"A dynamic journalist in the tradition of Andy Rooney."
— Gil Bratcher, WYSP-FM, Philadelphia
"[Someone who] has a wonderful way of cutting through the media
hype to clarify the 'real' culture and media in a manner that can be
understood by all."
— Jack Holcomb, WEEU-AM, Reading, Pa.