Media: Tabloid

Tabloid Media Pictures of celebrities that are underweight, overweight, cheating on their spouses, wearing ill fitting clothing or with bad plastic surgery are just a few of the things we see on the cover of tabloid magazines. At some point each of us has picked up one of these magazines and if we didn’t read the articles we at least read the captions under the pictures; they are hard to resist. I try to avoid them as much as possible but sometimes the captions on the front peak my curiosity. Some of the topics are totally unbelievable and I often wonder who believes tabloid stories.

I equate tabloids to gossip, probably 10% is true and the rest are falsehoods. But there is a very large market for tabloid media and it’s quite successful. Tabloid media is a multi-million dollar industry is sensationalism that some believe doesn’t add any real journalistic value. This essay will review the world of tabloid media. It’s said that ancient Romans would post news sheets on the walls to be viewed by the public. These sheets were said to be centered on crime and divorce which are topics that still occupy today’s tabloid sheets.

The term tabloid was originally used to describe a small tablet of medication that was easy to swallow. It was later used by the media to describe news papers that were of a smaller size in comparison to a regular newspaper. A vast majority of tabloids have shifted from reporting on important topics such as local and world affairs to celebrity gossip and sex. Tabloids are characterized by the use of pictures and simple news stories that target a lower class audience. Some journalists believe that tabloid media will be the end of responsible journalism.

In Frank Jossi’s interview with Elizabeth Bird, author of the book “for enquiring Minds: A Cultural Study of Supermarket Tabloids she disclosed that her research found that the average reader of tabloids, “were middle-aged white women with a high school education, although a third were men. ” Bird’s research also revealed that the readers are not gullible and don’t believe everything that’s reported in these magazines such as Elvis sightings. In regards to celebrities she found that people are interested in stories regarding the breakdown of the family unit because they are able to relate and therefore feel better about their own lives.

Supermarket tabloids are often viewed as being at or near the bottom of the tabloid pool. They are filled with sensationalized stories with information that is distorted and unverified. This type of magazine is aggressively sold on the checkout lines of supermarkets often with farfetched headlines splashed on their front page. In the 1997 movie Men in Black, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, supermarket tabloid magazines were used as a way to track alien activity. Aliens used these magazines as a method to communicate to and about other aliens that were living on earth disguised as humans or pets.

Supermarket tabloid magazines idea has crossed over into the visual market as well. Tabloid television shows monopolize the airwaves. I’m always surprised at the longevity of some of these shows. The Jerry Springer show has been on for eighteen years and is famous for the guest pulling each others close off while fighting on stage. Maury Povich has been doing tabloid television since 1986; his current show usually has women that are having one or multiple men tested to see if they are indeed the father of their babies.

There are critics that doubt their journalistic contribution but there are those that believe they do produce a valuable public service. Because they reach the masses they can focus on the transgressions of higher society such as abuse of power and corruption. This type is believed to have higher standards than supermarket tabloids they are upmarket or middle market tabloid media. There target market is of higher education and income and tend to like a bit of real news mixed in with their celebrity entertainment.

These are usually not in the supermarket checkout lane but instead they are in the actual magazine aisle. They will have more creditable articles such as corruption in companies and government. These are usually independently owned which allows the journalist point of view to not be influenced. Articles pertaining to celebrities and fashion are abundant but they contain more fact based information. Televisions’ equivalent is a lady many are familiar with; famous for her red eyeglasses she wore on her show for nineteen years, Sally Jessy Raphael. Today’s equivalent would be the Tyra Banks Show.

These shows are a bit different than the previously mentioned shows. She explored topics such as anorexia, bulimia, incest and polygamy on national television that many were not even discussing in their homes. Although tabloid media seems to focus on profiting from ones pain and grief they can also be a voice to those in society that are often not heard and feel powerless. They make issues that are usually kept personal and private very public. Celebrities are starting to fight back against tabloid media when they report stories that have the ability to hurt their families, careers and image.

There are some that print stories or pictures that are grossly misleading and can cross ethical and moral lines by reporting complete untruths and commit slander. Over the last decade celebrities have begun to legally fight back and sue companies that cross these lines; there monetary award is usually stated as an ‘undisclosed amount’. In 2003 actress Nicole Kidman won her suit against the Daily Mail. Per an article by Archie Thomas in the Daily Variety, Kidman received an undisclosed five-figure sum and an apology once a subsidiary of the Daily Mail ran an article that accused her of having an adulterous affair with actor Jude Law.

In Ellen Hume’s article, “Tabloids, Talk Radio, and the Future of News,” she states, “The tabloid journalist is missing an opportunity by resorting to formulas that may actually be turning off the most important consumer group—people who want news as opposed to those simply looking for entertaining background noise. This group becomes vital to the future of journalism as the marketplace breaks down further into niches. ”

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