Tabloidization of the News

Authored by: Herman Wasserman

The Handbook of Journalism Studies

Print publication date:  June  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138052888
eBook ISBN: 9781315167497
Adobe ISBN:


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While tabloid media has often been vilified as detrimental to the quality of political debate and citizen participation in the mediated public sphere, and as a result has not been at the center of journalism studies historically, there has been growing attention given to tabloid journalism over the past two decades. One of the reasons for this increased attention might be the spread of tabloid journalism, and tabloid culture more generally, around the world or that tabloid culture has become a pervasive feature across different media platforms. As normative concerns about journalism standards and trustworthiness have again arisen in the post-truth era, where debates about “fake” or misleading news have led to introspection about the relationship between news and its publics (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017; Bakir & McStay, 2017), a return to the literature on the debates around tabloid journalism standards, its reception by different audiences and responses from journalists as an interpretive community are again instructive. Tabloid journalism provides us with a productive entry point into wider debates about journalism culture, normative values, audience preferences, and the globalization of genres. Tabloid journalism also points us in the direction of wider cultural trends, such as the pervasiveness of a “tabloid culture” typical of late modernity, which includes increasing media and image saturation; a prioritization of images and representations over what is considered “the real”; instability of distinctions between public and private, and between reality and representation; a fragmentation of discourses; the commodification of culture; and an increase in cultural products characterized by eclecticism and skepticism of grand narratives such as universality and objectivity (Glynn, 2000). As it foregrounds questions that are applicable more widely to the field, tabloid journalism is increasingly recognized as an important point of focus in journalism studies. Approaches to the study of tabloid journalism differ widely, however, and even the conceptualization of the field of study itself may already indicate a certain normative orientation. As Biressi and Nunn (2008, p. 1) note: “‘Tabloidization’ itself is a tabloid term, a media industry expression rather than a scholarly concept, denoting a dumbing down of media content and a weakening of the ideal functions of mass media in liberal democracies.”

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