It's high time for those high-minded, highbrow media critics to get down on their knobby knees and bleat out an apology to the hardworking men and women of America's cheeseball magazines.

These snooty, snotty critics are forever yipping and yapping about how magazines just don't spend time and money to really dig deep into the stories they cover.

Well, maybe that's true for trivial topics like global warming or the budget deficit or genocide in Sudan, but it's definitely not true for one of the great epics of our time: the star-crossed love triangle of Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie.

When it comes to Brad & Jen & Angelina -- and now Vince Vaughn, who may or may not be Jen's new squeeze -- nothing can stop America's great cheeseball magazines, which are, of course, Us and Star. Say what you want, they've stayed with this story for months, spending a fortune to chase the libidinous celebs literally around the world, following every twist of the story, even some that weren't, in the strictest sense, actually true.

Look at this week's Star. Not only does it have a piece on Jen and Vince's "Steamy Nights Together!" and a "World Exclusive! -- Brad & Angelina to Wed!" -- but it also has an interview with the grandmother of the Ethiopian baby that Angelina recently adopted.

"When Star learned that Angelina Jolie was adopting a child in Ethiopia," writes editor Joe Dolce, "we rushed two reporters to the scene. They immediately flew to the capital city of Addis Ababa and then made an arduous six-hour trek -- by jeep over rough, rugged roads -- to the tiny village of Awassa, where Angelina's baby was born."

Very impressive!

But no more impressive than Us, which ran a story on the adoption (and Brad & Angelina's subsequent weekend getaway in France) that credited no fewer than 12 reporters: one in Ethiopia, one in France, two in London, three in New York, four in Los Angeles and one in Chicago. Us also called in not just one but two handwriting experts to analyze an autograph that Aniston recently gave to a fan in Chicago, which showed that Jen is "very private" and that love is important to her.

This is the kind of no-stone-left-unturned reporting that ought to win awards. But the high-minded, highbrow folks who bestow awards would rather eat worms than give one to the cheeseballs.

Fortunately, we at the Magazine Reader are low-minded lowbrows, so we've created our own Cheeseball Magazine Awards for excellence in covering Brad & Jen & Angelina & Vince.

The envelopes, please:

Most Thought-Provoking Headline: Star. "Brad Gets Naked With Angelina!"

Best Question: Us. Discussing how Brad's love for Angelina lured him into aiding her Third World refugee work, Us asked the question on everyone's mind: "Could Aniston's loss be the developing world's gain?"

Best Freudian Analysis: Star quoted a "longtime friend" of Aniston's saying, "Brad felt Jen has never resolved the feelings of abandonment that began when her father John left her mom Nancy."

Most Creative Use of Alleged Experts: This was a tough call. Both mags have burrowed deep into their Rolodexes, dialing up scads of shrinks, body language experts, relationship gurus and countless unnamed alleged insiders. But Us took the prize for quoting in a single issue (Jan. 31) the author of the book "Breakup Girl to the Rescue!" plus the author of "Will Our Love Last?" plus the author of "The Love Compatibility Book," as well as "the creator of"

Best Policy Wonk Moment: A tie. Both Star and Us ran pictures of that magic moment when Angelina greeted Richard Gere at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Best Advice to a Member of the Love Triangle: Star, for calling in "former supermodel" Janice Dickinson to offer sage advice to Aniston on how to win Brad back: "Have a showdown with Angelina Jolie. Hell, you and Angelina ought to have an affair! You'd be a hot couple!"

Most Prodigious Use of Exclamation Points!!: Star!! It's not even close!!!

Best Refutation of the Idea That Tax Cuts for the Rich Help the American Economy: Star reported Jan. 17 that Brad & Jen and their pals Courteney Cox Arquette and David Arquette spent $100,000 for a week's rental of a beach house in the British West Indies.

Best 180-Degree Reversal: After running a cover story on the alleged Aniston-Vaughn romance on July 11, Us reported this week that "there have been no signs of romance."

Biggest Screw-Up: Star, for its Jan. 17 cover story: "Brad & Jen Back On! It's Baby Time!" Ooops!

Weirdest Simultaneous Cover Headlines (particularly when you consider that if both were true the story would have ended right there):

Us, Feb. 14: "Brad Wants Jen Back!"

Star, Feb. 14: "Jen Fights to Get Brad Back!"

Most Thought-Provoking Polling Data: Star: "58% of single females say they would give up sex for a year for one Valentine's Day date with Brad Pitt."

Best Historical Sidebar Story: Star, for the Feb. 28 piece titled "More Man-Eaters, Past & Present," which revealed "Who They Are" and "Who They Ate" and included Ava Gardner, who ate Frank Sinatra, and Elizabeth Taylor, who ate Eddie Fisher. In an era when our schools just don't teach enough history, this was a major public service.

Best Blatantly Fake Photos: Under normal circumstances, Star would have snagged this award by illustrating its July 4 cover story, "Is Angelina Pregnant With Brad's Baby?," with computer-generated photos of what "Brad and Angelina's babies might look like." But W, the fashion magazine, seized this award with its July issue, which contained a 60-page photo essay in which Brad and Angelina and a gaggle of cute tykes portrayed an early '60s-era dysfunctional family. (The key question here is: Does W qualify as a cheeseball magazine? After much debate, we at Mag Reader have concluded that it does, although it peddles a classier cheese. Call it a brieball mag.)

Best Reason for Continuing the Brad & Jen & Angelina & Vince Madness for at Least a Few More Months: Less room for stories on the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes affair.