Like most Americans, I’m a consumer of pop culture. Of Hollywood. Angelina. Brad. Britney. John and Jen. Madonna. The Sham-Wow guy. The subsequent bust of the Sham-Wow guy.

I’m not above any of it. And unlike perhaps some media critics, I don’t fault celebrity magazine publishers for capitalizing on the public’s fascination with celebrity. Go for it. I like my orange juice with pulp.

And I don’t claim to be holier than thou. Far from it.

But when I was at the supermarket checkout over the weekend, I was disgusted—not by the breathless coverage of Octomom or Lindsay Lohan or Zac Efron, but by a National Enquirer cover featuring Patrick Swayze.

(Click here to see the cover; I’m not going to re-post it.)

Publishing paparazzi photos of an actor who is apparently battling cancer, leaving his doctor’s office. Despicable. American Media Inc., which publishes the magazine, should be ashamed of themselves.

Even the Weekly World News (R.I.P.), a title once owned by AMI, wouldn’t sink this low.

This, by the way, is the same publication that proclaimed Swayze had five weeks to live. That was in March. 2008.

Disgraceful. There’s no argument here.

According to the Publishers Information Bureau , ad pages for the National Enquirer were down 8.5 percent during the first quarter of 2009, after falling 10 percent in 2008. Total paid circulation, meanwhile, slid 11.2 percent during the second half of 2008.

I’m sorry, that’s not a big enough decline. Nor fast enough. We can all do better.

There’s class. There’s shame.

And then there’s the National Enquirer.