What exactly is a tabloid?
The term tabloid was initially coined by a pharmaceutical company in London called Burroughs Wellcome & Co. They were manufacturing compressed tablets and therefore started calling them ‘tabloid pills’.
The term then led to the birth of the tabloid newspaper which was more or less a compressed newspaper that was simplified and easy to read.
“A tabloid is often a weekly or semi-weekly alternative newspaper that focuses on local interest stories and entertainment, sometimes distributed free of charge, or a newspaper that tends to emphasize sensational crime stories, gossip columns repeating scandalous innuendos about the personal lives of celebrities and sport stars, and other so-called “junk food news”.” (Chorazak, 2010)
Several theorists and experienced journalist have criticized tabloid news papers for sensationalizing stories and lowering the quality of news. This does not just apply to the traditional news paper but to all other mediums as well. There are various books written discussing the tabloid news culture and its effects on news readers.
Tabloid news is very popular. Everyone wants to hear about the latest scandal, conspiracy theory or ogle at paparazzi photos of famous people.
“As people always had been fascinated by death, adversity and tragedy, tabloid journalism has never stopped progressing. Sensationalism attracts an audience, and because media profits are based on large audiences, it has become a foundation of the commercial media: thrills build big profits.” (Chorazak, 2010)
Another point o view is that there is a “need to make distinctions between high and low culture has occupied for as long as we have recognized that phenomenon we call “culture”. Journalism is no exception to this rule.” (Sparks and Tulloch, 2000)
Let’s look at the local English newspapers. We have the Straits Times and the Business times, both traditional newspapers that are very credible. Then we have the Today paper, The New Paper and MyPaper. These 3 seem to follow the format of tabloid newspapers but the content does not necessarily correspond. Readers get a compressed and easier to read paper but they seldom get sensationalized or scandalous news unless it has already been confirmed. Whereas in the United States, readers are exposed to all sorts of tabloid newspapers that discuss anything and everything under the sun.
Local readers are not really exposed to the kind of tabloid news that is available in other countries. Could this be the reason for the saturation on trivial “junk food news” we see in STOMP? As a citizen journalism portal, users can post whatever they want or whatever they believe people will read. A rise of tabloid-like news could possibly mean that Singaporeans are to a certain extent deprived of tabloids. Or maybe the issue at hand is something else completely.
Chorazak E. (2010), A Brief History of Tabloid Journalism, Helium Inc, accessed 05 December 2010, available at http://www.helium.com/items/1362082-brief-history-of-tabloid-journalism
Sparks C. & Tulloch J. (2000), Tabloid Tales: Global Debates over Media Standard, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc.