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Media Studies



Definition of the tabloid

Size and design

Output, priorities, tastes


The first sense is specific to newspapers and the

journalistic output of broadcasting. From this
perspective, the tabloid is a form marked by two
major features: it devotes relatively little attention
to politics, economics and society and relatively
much to diversions like sports, scandal, and
popular entertainment; it devotes relatively much
attention to the personal and private lives of
people, both celebrities and ordinary people, and
relatively little to political processes, economic
developments, and social changes. (Sparks,
2000: 10)

The second sense involves a shift in the priorities
within a given medium, away from news and
information toward an emphasis on entertainment.
This usage applies particularly to broadcasting, since
radio and television have historically been dominated
by generalist programming policies that aim to include
a diet of both journalistic and entertainment material.
(Sparks, 2000: 10-11)

The final usage concerns the shifting boundaries of
taste within different media forms. [] What is
distinctive about the Jerry Springer Show is that the
wrong kinds of people (who are not accredited experts)
talk about the wrong kinds of topics (their deeply
private dilemmas and experiences) in the wrong
atmosphere (that of the game show). [] Political talk
has an honored place in broadcasting; it is the populist
tone and the rightist content that are being denounced.
(Sparks, 2000: 11)


A typology of newspapers according to the degree

of tabloidization

The Serious Press

The Semiserious Press
The Serious-Popular Press
The Newsstand Tabloid Press
The Supermarket Tabloid Press

(see Sparks, 2000: 12-16)


Definition of tabloidization - two meanings:
The first is an increase of the market share of
tabloid media as against their more serious rivals.
The second consists of changes to the serious
media that bring them more in line with the
tabloids. (Sparks, 2000: 21)
technology development
market competition and ownership patterns commercialization
social changes (literacy, access, interests)

The Tabloidization Debate

Arguments against:
It lowers the standards of traditional journalism.
It affects the frame of rational debate that the
public sphere should provide for citizens.
It stultifies audiences (no more interest in
political, economic and social issues).
It contributes to the manipulation of audiences.

The Tabloidization Debate

Arguments for:
It makes news accessible to large audiences (across
social classes) democratization.
It allows ordinary people to become the subject of news.
It makes news stories relevant to the masses (human
interest stories) and memorable (due to the language
and style in which they are written conversational
Tabloid news is subversive the defense of the tabloid
takes the form of a celebration of its content as the site
of popular opposition to the dominant order. (Sparks,
2000: 25)

Gripsrud (2000: 290-292):
There is an obvious need for distinctions within the
field of popular journalism. Many nontabloid forms
and contents are popular in the simple sense that
they enjoy widespread popularity, both in print and
broadcast media. The conflation of tabloid and
popular may thus obscure the existence and
potential of a popular journalism, which is different
from the forms most typically associated with the first
of these terms.

Popular, but not tabloid:
Newspaper pages of TV programs devoted to local
news of various politically relevant kinds (Should
a new bridge be built? Nurses on strike, and so on)
could be one example and so could much coverage
of health and everyday psychology, wildlife,
sports, and the like. Even interviews with
celebrities may well serve as examples of nontabloid
but still popular journalism, for instance when they
focus on the interviewees professional activities or
life experiences with some sort of general reference.


Tabloid, but not trash:
If there are popular journalistic forms that are not tabloid, the
next question might be if there are tabloid forms that are
not trash. The meaning of tabloid TV is in common
usage often hard to distinguish from that of trash TV but
such a distinction should probably be made. Trash TV
includes, as far as I know, professional wrestling shows,
Jerry Springer-type talk shows, certain voyeuristic kinds of
reality TV, and probably phenomena such as house-wife
striptease and other pornographic genres. What all of
these have in common is a degree of shock aesthetics,
or a particularly pronounced sensationalism.

Tabloid TV is used in much broader ways than trash TV,
and so the two are not quite identical. There are forms of
tabloid news magazines, for instance, which may be
rubricated as tabloid but are closer to mainstream
television than shows like Springers. The emphasis on
the personal and personalization as a rhetorical device
might suggest that The Oprah Winfrey Show belongs to
the tabloid category, but it would not at all be fair to
label it trash. When Oprah moved her show to Los
Angeles after the L.A. riots and let those rebelling in the
streets speak for themselves, and in a form of dialogue
with opponents, she made innovative use of television
in the service of democracy. (Gripsrud, 2000: 290-292)

The National Enquirer

The Enquirer/Star Group, Inc. (year 1991)

the best-selling supermarket tabloids in the United States:
the National
Enquirer, Weekly
News, the Star, and Soap Opera Magazine

With investigative reporting on such sensational stories as

alien spacecraft sightings in New Jersey and head-lines
such as 'Cher: I haven't had sex for 10 months!,' the $1.25a-copy National Enquirer and Star enjoy a combined
weekly circulation of seven million. OnlyTV Guide sells
more copies.

The National Enquirer

The National Enquirer, the Group's flagship publication,
traces its history to 1926, when newspaper magnate William
Randolph Hearst lent his protege William Griffin money to
found the New York Evening Enquirer.
In 1952, Generoso Pope, Jr., son of the founder of New
newspaper Il
Progresso, purchased the Enquirer for $75,000. Pope
planned to gradually change the format of the paper to that of
a national news-feature weekly. He dropped the paper's
Democratic partisanship, increased its staff, and added a
new, anonymously written 'world-wide intelligence
column.' Although Pope initially said the newspaper would
not convert to the tabloid format, the paper became a
tabloid in 1953.

The National Enquirer

The greatest change Pope instituted, however, was

in the paper's editorial content. Gory stories of
murder and mutilation became regular features.
Confessions such as 'I'm sorry I killed my
mother, but I'm glad I killed my father,'
appeared. [] In 1957, the paper was renamed
the National Enquirer. Pope broadened its focus to
include national stories of sex and sadism and
also expanded its distribution.

The National Enquirer

Sales grew steadily, despite content so offensive
that the Chicago Transit Authority temporarily
banned its sale at station newsstands. By 1966,
however, sales had reached a plateau at 1 million
copies per week, prompting Pope (who had once
again taken control of the publication) to clean up the
paper's image. [] In 1978 circulation peaked at
5.7 million copies, and slid to just under 4.6 million
by 1981. The decline was attributed to the growing
number of competing supermarket tabloids,
including one created by Pope.

The National Enquirer

Generoso Pope, Jr. passed away in October, 1988.
Several of the world's leading publishing companies
bid for the family-owned business, including
Diamond Communications, Maxwell
Communications Corp., and Hachette S.A. In June,
1989, GP Group Acquisition Limited Partnership (a
partnership created by Boston Ventures Limited
Partnerships III and IIIA and Macfadden Holdings,
L.P.) purchased the operations for $413 million in



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