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Tabloid Journalism

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“Bill Clinton: I Screwed Up With Monica” is what is the headline on the National Enquirer website yesterday morning, should we care? If so, why do we care? Celebrity tabloids have become a norm to us in society whether we like it or not. While standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for it to be your turn to checkout, we can’t help but notice the headlines on the magazines next to us reading absurd things such as “Michael Jackson found alive in Disneyland” or “Male able to give birth” and although we know how crazy these things look, we still find ourselves flipping through the pages and let our curiosity get the best of us.

Tabloids are found in just about every vehicle of media, television, print, radio, and of course, the internet. According to dictionary.com, a tabloid is a media that contains news in a condensed form and much photographic material, and that features stories of violence, crime, or scandal presented in a breathtaking style. It’s come to a point in our culture where a person is completely unable to avoid the gossip that is constantly around us. Tabloids have become a major part of American culture, and effects the way a particular audience views the difference of the life of celebrities and their own.

American society is unbelievably fascinated with celebrities and what they do in their lives, that is why the tabloid industry is so successful. Sensationalism, the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest or excitement, is very much a part of the way in which tabloid journalists cover news stories that relate to extraordinary crimes, political scandals, and celebrity gossip. In society today, it seems as though there is less emphasis on finding out the real story and getting facts for the story and more on being the first journalist to uncover the salacious details on a high profile affair.

Throughout the years it has become evident that celebrity culture has grown to dominate the social scene and there is no doubt that the tabloids have helped the celebrity fascinations become what they have. This obsession with celebrities, scandal and gossip that are in the tabloids may seem unhealthy because they have gone to extreme levels of them being everywhere we look, but they are nothing new. Tabloid Journalism has been around for several decades. People always had been fascinated by death, adversity and tragedy; tabloid journalism has never stopped progressing.

Scandal attracts an audience and because media profits are based on large audiences, it has become a foundation of the commercial media, “big thrills, big profits.” This keeps everyone happy and readers are getting their daily entertainment, and the media is getting their money. Somewhere on the way, the original idea of a cheap, entertaining newspaper changed into a race between tabloids, meaning that whoever gives the best news.

Throughout history there has always been a strong fascination with the lives of the rich and famous as well as the criminal world that is much below those that are rich and famous. Evidence has shown that in the late Victorian period, it was Jack The Ripper that captured the publics attention, with a little help from a number of hoax letters which are said to have been written by tabloid journalists to get people to put their magazine, and or newspaper before they purchased someone else’s.

Tabloids journalism first started with Yellow Journalism, which is defined as a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism (SOURCE). By extension, the term yellow journalism is used today as a pejorative to decry any journalism that treats news in an unprofessional or unethical fashion.

The first successful tabloid was Harmsworth’s Daily Mirror in 1903. Originally launched as a newspaper for “gentlemen”, the “MIRROR” had been a failure, but the tabloid format, together with a halfpenny cover price and numerous photographs, made the new picture paper an immediate success, with circulation running at more than 1,000,000 copies by 1914. After World War I the struggle for circulation intensified. The circulation “war of tabs” struck New York City in the 1920s, and one of the most popular newspapers of that time was the “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”. First published in 1919, it was written to a ruthless recipe of sex and sensationalism by Joseph Patterson. This circulation “war of tabs” was copied in Britain in 1930s, bringing with it numerous circulation-boosting stunts.

Prizes for readers had been introduced as early as the 1890s, when Harmsworth offered a pound a week for life for the reader who could guess the value of gold in the Bank of England on a given day. In the 1920s one paper offered free insurance to subscribers, but this soon proved too costly to maintain. In 1930 the “Daily Herald” offered gifts to woo new readers. After World War II one of the prosperous followers of “yellow journalism” was Rupert Murdoch, who inherited from his father, Australian newspapers the “Sunday Mail” and “The News”, and quickly converted the latter into a paper dominated by news of sex and scandal, often writing its banner headlines himself. By the time that Murdoch acquired his first British newspaper in 1969 – “News of the World” – he had put together a proven formula for boosting circulation, which entailed an emphasis on crime, sex, scandal, and human-interest stories with bold-face headlines, prolific sports reporting, and outspokenly conservative editorializing.

By the time that Murdoch acquired his first British newspaper in 1969 – “News of the World” – he had put together a proven formula for boosting circulation, which entailed an emphasis on crime, sex, scandal, and human-interest stories with bold-face headlines, prolific sports reporting, and outspokenly conservative editorializing. In 1973 Murdoch entered the American newspaper business by purchasing two San Antonio, Texas, dailies, one of which – the “San Antonio News” – he transformed into a sex-and-scandal sheet that soon dominated the city’s afternoon market.

In 1974 he introduced a national weekly sensationalist tabloid, the “Star”, and in 1976 he purchased the afternoon tabloid “New York Post”. Although the practice of yellow journalism is now just a small part of mass media industry, some techniques of the yellow journalism period became more or less permanent and widespread, such as banner headlines, colored comics, copious illustration, and some others.

The reason that tabloids are so cultural significant because They may test the limits of the ethically or legally acceptable, but they are often doing so in the service of a popular desire to see behind the facade of public life. They rely on the appeal (a very human one) of seeing elements of our societies that are often shamefully hidden away from view.

The tabloids are the newspapers most dutifully dedicated to ideas of exposure, and are willing to take risks in the service of that goal. It may be the case that much of what they expose is perhaps of little social import, but this is more a matter of taste, and the tabloids certainly never claimed to be tasteful. Certainly the fact that the American tabloids first broke important news stories, like the extramarital affair of John Edwards, the former United States senator and Democratic vice-presidential nominee, suggests that they are not merely peddling insignificant gossip.

Now, although the tabloid industry is vast and just continues to grow, that doesn’t mean that the audience that is purchases these magazines, newspapers or reading online don’t know that what that are reading is fake. A new survey has found that 68 per cent of the British public say they distrust tabloid newspapers. The highest level of trust was in TV and radio news (58 per cent) followed by broadsheets (47 per cent), online news sources such as the Huffington Post (39 per cent), mid-market titles like the Daily Mail (26 per cent) and social media (18 per cent) – the survey found.

Just 14 per cent of those surveyed said they trusted tabloid newspapers such as The Sun, Daily Mirror and Daily Star. The difference between the 68 per cent and 14 per cent figures for the tabloids – 18 per cent – said they neither trusted nor distrusted them. The survey was carried out by StrategyOne UK Research on behalf of US-based PR and communications company Edelman, as part of its annual Trust Barometer research involving 2,101 British adults.

In a separate study it also surveyed 1,000 members of the general public in Britain aged 25-plus and 200 “informed” members of the public. Among the latter category (defined as college-educated, with household income in the top quartile for their age, who read or watch business/news media at least several times a week) trust in the media had increased by 15 per cent on 2011 to 37 per cent in 2012, despite the ongoing phone-hacking scandal.

When it comes a personal I believe that the tabloids have really changed our society because They exist to break down the barriers of access that keep social elites at a remove from ordinary people. The tabloids, throughout history, on both sides of the Atlantic, have been predicated on chipping away at that division. They play a fundamental role in democratic cultures, especially in societies characterized by the pull between the demands of a mass society and the persistence of social and economic inequality.

The work of the tabloids can be irritating, provocative, ethically questionable and even (as the scandal spectacularly shows) highly illegal, but when practiced according to existing laws, tabloid journalism can be an important player in modern culture, helping to mitigate some of the central tensions in democratic society. Journalism has always been marked by a battle to define the boundaries of acceptable investigative behavior. The tabloids just as they ought constantly test those boundaries.

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