"The lower end of the newspaper market"

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So, studying Journalism as I am, this phrase is pretty common. It feels as though all the lecturers, and everyone else, myself included until now perhaps, want to say that the tabloids are to some extent inferior and stupid but they want to say it without ever directly making the accusation.

Yesterday it was "the lower end of the market, perhaps for people who are, eh arguably, less educated, er less FORMALLY educated, and indeed less wealthy, or from less wealthy BACKGROUNDS".


Is there a lower end of the market?

What distinctions can be made between tabloids and broadsheets? What distinctions would work effectively for lecture purposes or just general discourse?

Do you think it's silly to allow people start seeing things as lower and higher, I mean I've already read the odd thing in student mags from some fool about how Pop Idol:The Rivals is somehow being "fed" to people yadda yadda yadda. This is what I meant in the summer when I said the "intellectual" arguments against Big Brother were really irritating, I don't think they are genuinely intellectual, of course not, but to move to a different topic, has there always been some kind of "dross" for people who aren't all that much smarter than you or I to criticise. Or is this a recent thing? Manufactured pop, Big Brother, Pop Idol, they seem to get more faux-intellectual criticism than fictional shows like Neighbours ever do.


I suppose this is the kind of question I should be directly studying, and not asking about or tiptoeing around, and maybe it runs thus: Is it right to create news values which are based on moral judgements, and teach them to people? It seems to just create a hierarchy and surely anyone in college can make moral judgements on the news themselves, and be done with it.

[Also, to be more frivolous, is it just me, or are McDonalds analogies ridiculously common in this context? I took the piss on ILM when someone made one, but christ they're everywhere, "people being fed what's bad for them" etc etc]

Ronan (Ronan), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 14:20 (nineteen years ago) link

I don't know why they can't just call it the popular end.

N. (nickdastoor), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 14:21 (nineteen years ago) link

Well yeah, possibly cos most of them work for the other end.

Ronan (Ronan), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 14:24 (nineteen years ago) link

[McDonalds analogies are ridiculously common. You'd think some of the supposedly educated people who use them might notice it's a terrible cliche, but oh no, they're too busy slapping themselves on the back for having such discerning taste and eating in Pizza Express instead]

RickyT (RickyT), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 14:38 (nineteen years ago) link

[Cor, I am being a snotty git today]

RickyT (RickyT), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 14:39 (nineteen years ago) link

I have always thought of you as the McDonalds of snotty gits.

N. (nickdastoor), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 14:41 (nineteen years ago) link

Pah, I'd sooner eat a snotty git than a Big Mac anyway.

Ronan (Ronan), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 14:43 (nineteen years ago) link

just because the Mcdonalds analogy is so cliched, thats not a good enough reason in itself to consider it not applicable...

as for tabloids/broadsheets, the main distinctions might be found in the design/format...tabloids are designed for shorter articles that must capture the reader who is considered to have a shorter attention span and a lower intellectual threshold given their class status and the fact they're actually more interested in the football results, who's through to the next round of Pop Idol and what wossname's new squeeze wore at the premiere of the latest Hollywood pap last night, all of which is a horrendous generalisation (i read and quite enjoyed The Sun for a few years myself!) but WAS certainly the basis of the red tabloids's target audience...perhaps this is less so now but the tabloids still DEPEND on sensationalising the news whereas the broadsheets are perhaps more strait-laced and subtle - this is kinda obvious tho just by comparing headlines on the same story in The Sun and the Daily Telegraph, tho they may be saying the same thing politically the Daily Telegraph's tone may be perceived as being more 'eloquent'

its because the tabloids will always rather devote more space on a front page to Posh & Becks rather than the Middle East that people feel they represent a 'lower end' catering for those who'd rather think about vacuous stuff like that...tho in their defence, people WANT good news dont they? however useful it may/may not be?

sorry if you feel you're well aware of all this already...writing it out actually helps me understand more myself


blueski, Wednesday, 9 October 2002 14:56 (nineteen years ago) link

the promotion departments of the tabloids seem to also position them to the classes that would play games like wingo, etc -- i doubt the front page of the new york times would ever devote space to a house ad for a game with a top prize of $10000.

i don't think that thie practice is in any way right. but i think that if you bring it up to editors and/or publishing magnates, you'll be told that they are just 'giving the people what they want' -- market populism serving as a thin disguise for elitism.

ronan in your class was there talk about any correlations between political viewpoints and class-marketing? it seems that in the states most of the tabloids i've seen have a 'straight talk' attitude in their editorials, one that frequently uses quasi-religious heartstrings to prove its points. never mind that, to me, the points at the heart of the rhetoric seem much more in tune with the whims of the moneyed paper-bankrollers and overpaid pundits than the people it so fiercely positions itself towards.

also look at papers like the sun (in the US) and the globe -- i didn't realize how much of the content was totally over-the-top in its religious implication until i looked at an issue at the duane reade recently.

maura (maura), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 15:12 (nineteen years ago) link

How does the Mirror (UK) fit into this with its very politics-led content and apparent attempts to define a leftist populism?

Tom (Groke), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 15:24 (nineteen years ago) link

it seems to me The Mirror delivers this content in an irritating sensationalist and often reactionary way doesnt it - or is this a misconception based on its past? of course the Daily Mail is the worst culprit of all...

blueski, Wednesday, 9 October 2002 15:35 (nineteen years ago) link

i wouldn't know, tom, as i haven't seen the mirror. but i would really like to -- i'm basing my post on the tabloids i've seen (ny post, ny daily news, philadelphia daily news, chicago sun-times). to be fair also there aren't very many daily tabloids in the us (probably because there also aren't many more than one paper cities).

maura (maura), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 15:37 (nineteen years ago) link

i doubt the front page of the new york times would ever devote space to a house ad for a game with a top prize of $10000.

Ha ha - you've obv. never seen our Times (the err.. London Times, I believe you call it). I remember when they first launched their 'upmarket' bingo in the 80s. It was called 'Portfolio'. And the middle classes went mad for it.

N. (nickdastoor), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 15:58 (nineteen years ago) link

you're right, i haven't. have they done that sort of thing recently?

maura (maura), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 16:05 (nineteen years ago) link

why is it so shocking that someone from america is not familiar with european newspapers?

jess (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 16:13 (nineteen years ago) link

in any event, i think it's much more common (IN AMERICA) that people of "lesser education" or from "less wealthy backgrounds" end up at small town newspapers, shoppers newspapers, and alternative weeklies (ha ha.)

jess (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 16:15 (nineteen years ago) link

and in that case, yes it is a "lower end" of the newspaper market, but it also has more of a whole-food than junk-food connotation (even if the net effect is about the same): there will always be a need for someone to write about the easter parade and the old folks home christmas pageant. for a lot of people this is an aprenticeship, but for some this is as far as they wanna go.

jess (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 16:20 (nineteen years ago) link

just because the Mcdonalds analogy is so cliched, thats not a good enough reason in itself to consider it not applicable...


Bah, we were through this already and I said the reason I hate it is because McDonalds is bad for you, proven by science, fact.

Ronan (Ronan), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 17:06 (nineteen years ago) link

I'd rather read the New York Post or the Daily News instead of the New York Times any day. They have better coverage of local issues, the writing's more punchy, and they get to the point faster. Plus they're actually often more likely to do REPORTING, as crazy as that sounds. Take a look at the NY Times or another one of those "respected" papers. How much reporting actually goes into what they're writing? I counted every article in a day's Times the other day, and noted down the sources in each article. The majority of their articles are based on news that they didn't have to WORK to get -- press releases, government press conferences, etc. Fuck that, go out and get the damn story. Sadly, sometimes a tabloid's more likely to go out on the front lines and do that, at least with a local story. They want to find the seamy, sordid, sexy side of the news, so they're given to thinking in terms of exposes and dark underbellies rather than voices from on high. I'm not saying that their penchant for investigative melodrama is always a good or even accurate thing, but I like their attitude towards news better, almost.

geeta (geeta), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 17:11 (nineteen years ago) link

"Bah, we were through this already and I said the reason I hate it is because McDonalds is bad for you, proven by science, fact. "

ok, but i'm gonna read up on that properly now to see how it compares with other food in general (e.g. is it worse for you than a full fried English breakfast and if so how so?) and what these bad effects are

the more you know...

blueski, Wednesday, 9 October 2002 17:13 (nineteen years ago) link

its pretty obvious by the standard of 'news' in various papers which market they are aiming at, same as magazines.
sadly, it does seem to follow that someone with higher education / more intellectual prowess is most likely to be interested in the news of the world, politics etc minus the sensationalism that accompanies tabloid reporting.
i think it is a shame that people are ( and can be ) pigeon-holed so easily ie: level of education / background wealth = type of media presentation they will be drawn to.
in a 'pc' world none of this would be true, but that isnt reality and though i think it is wrong to TEACH these class distinctions they do become glaringly obvious in time.
having said that i must add the fact that when i was commuting to work for some years i whiled away the time by studying my fellow travellers, and noticed that sometimes people would surprise me ie: 'bloke' in grease-ridden labourer-type clothing reading the stock market pages of the sydney morning herald ( not tabloid by any account )
btw i am from a reasonably wealthy background, i have education to tertiary level, and i dont believe i am entirely stupid BUT i used to buy the tabloids now and then for the crosswords ( haha ) and for a good old read of CRAP. :-)

donna (donna), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 17:14 (nineteen years ago) link

i didn't think it was possible for geeta and i to share an almost completely opposite view on something, but there you go.

jess (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 17:14 (nineteen years ago) link

And perceived "education level" has next to nothing to do with the quality of the reporting or the readership. Education can put blinders on, too; it doesn't necessarily make you better informed or help you to get the whole picture on any issue. In a lot of cases, I think it makes people more complacent.

geeta (geeta), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 17:23 (nineteen years ago) link

blueski the point is that the analogy is working on the basis of people being fooled into liking something bad for them by advertising or pr, thus an english breakfast is pretty irrelevent and my point about mcdos being bad for you and pop idol not being bad for you is pretty concrete.

Ronan (Ronan), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 17:25 (nineteen years ago) link

i can't read the post. i just can't. sometimes it'll have a witty headline, and its but its columnists are all atrocious, the editorials are inflammatory piffle handed down from the murdoch chair, and the writing of a lot of it is not very good at all. (and let's not even get into dan aquilante's continued employment there...)

i still like the daily news, and i think newsday in its prime was a really solid tabloid (although recently it's been ripping more and more stories from its times-mirror bretheren, which is a bummer). and yes, i do think that the reporting on some local stories is better-handled by the tabloids. but i'm curious -- which articles did you see that had more than one reporter working on them? it seems to me like so many of the ones that do merit more than one reporter have a name attached to them and are more scandal than, say, reports on the economy and how it's affecting locals.

btw, i hope it doesn't come off like i'm defending the times as the paragon of journalism here -- i hardly think it's a perfect paper, and to be frank, its constant middlebrow positioning (esp. in its arts coverage) makes me want to throw it across the room at times. (amanda hesser must be stopped!)

maura (maura), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 17:30 (nineteen years ago) link

yeh but i thought the whole point of the mcdonalds analogy was more to do with the huge corporate manufacturing process of production rather than the negative aspects of the actual end product on its own merit...tho i've felt the analogy was valid in that respect as well when describing certain music or other entertainment media - not in that fast food is obviously bad for you but more for its lack of substance, its blandness, shoddiness yet strange addictive quality and convenience (these things are 'bad for you' physically in the same way Pop Idol is, in promoting ultra-manufactured but bland mediocre product, 'bad' for you from an artistic/cultural perspective PERHAPS - a feeling that many people recognise...but of course thats nowhere near as bad)

so its an old argument and i guess we shouldnt get into it

blueski, Wednesday, 9 October 2002 17:41 (nineteen years ago) link

I agree, Maura -- the editorials in the tabloids do suck. (Famously, one of them was only 4 words long - I think it was "__ __ is bad" or something) But I still think they are better at covering local issues (well, they cover them at all.) Go check out the NY Times' coverage of the Bronx, or lack thereof. The Times is too interested in being a 'national newspaper', but in doing so they've sort of lost any sense of focus whatsoever. Sure, they've got the Metro Section and a City Section once a week, but they may as well call themselves the "Manhattan Times"...

And yeah, some of the arts coverage in the Times is kinda sketchy. (Hey Maura, did you read the big food piece today? 'I went to a -gasp- mainstream supermarket today and oh my god shock horror, they only had romaine lettuce! Where was the radicchio?' or whatevah)

geeta (geeta), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 17:43 (nineteen years ago) link

(that was amanda hesser, in part ii of the 'times reporters go out to where america shops' series -- the first was a trip to wal-mart by a fashion writer. oy.)

i think i'm going to check out some issues of the post and the daily news just to see this imbalance. i do see your point about the times positioning itself as more of a national newspaper (much like the washington post, which i think benefits from having the government be its front and center local story, although they're getting crazy hawkish on the op-ed page), and i wish that they'd devote more space to covering all of the city instead of, i don't know, that dumb escapes section or their weekly piece on the strokes and the yeah yeah yeahs. but i think when they apply local-style reporting to issues in other parts of the country, they really shine.

maura (maura), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 17:52 (nineteen years ago) link

(and newsday -- don't forget newsday!!!)

maura (maura), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 17:55 (nineteen years ago) link

Yeah, those pieces where the NY Times applies local-style reporting to issues are good. I'm not saying that the Times never reports; I just think they should do stuff like that more often. I mean, they've got the resources to hire the best writers and the luxury of having bureaus in far-flung parts of the world. Go send more reporters to Iraq or Zimbabwe or the South Bronx or wherever. Actually go to the scene instead of making phone calls. It makes a huge difference in how the story is told, I think.

geeta (geeta), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 18:00 (nineteen years ago) link


why is it so shocking that someone from america is not familiar with european newspapers?

It isn't shocking at all. 'You've obviously' was just a figure of speech. Sorry if I gave any other impression. Yes, I believe they do have similar things today, though in a less-sustained way. 'Pay off your mortgage' , 'Win a holiday home in France' kind of stuff. Maybe I'm wrong and it's just the Daily Mail and Evening Standard (midmarket) that run these things these days. I can't remember now.

N. (nickdastoor), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 19:05 (nineteen years ago) link

heh, sorry n. i was just being a snot.

(jess in being snot shocker.)

it seems to me - and maybe i'm wrong - that a lot of local-style broadsheets in the us have been adopting a more tabloid-y approach, although sufficiently whitewashed for their market.

jess (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 19:15 (nineteen years ago) link

on the matter of editorials: in the (uk) broadsheets they're often indistinguishable from the comment columns, but generally rather less interesting. i actually prefer the " x x is bad" style tabloid ones, which are surely closer to the point of editorials viz setting out the newspaper's "official" position.

(also does anyone read a newspaper for the editorials? in fact does anyone read the broadsheet editorials at all? i tend not to bother).

on tabloid vs broadsheet: tabloids tend to piss me off by not writing enough about anything, while broadsheets waste thousands of words on saying very little (it's an easy criticism to make, but sitting down and reading a weekend broadsheet cover to cover takes an entire day and imparts very little info for that investment). i can't really remember the days before 30 page second sections every day, but i can't help feeling that there must have been less filler articles back then. anyone who reads the G2 or equivalent every day and looks down on tabloid readers for reading about irrelevant pap is a fool.

also on the ny times' reliance on reuters etc: this is one of the things that always puts me off reading it (plus the layout - it looks like something out of the distant past! what is it with us newspapers looking so univiting compared to uk ones?). are uk newspapers any better? from memory i'd say "yes", but it could easily be that i haven't noticed/they're less good at crediting their sources. anyone?

toby (tsg20), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 19:43 (nineteen years ago) link

also does anyone read a newspaper for the editorials?

oh, drat, marginalized again!

maura (maura), Wednesday, 9 October 2002 20:13 (nineteen years ago) link

great point about the broadsheets toby...if i read The Guardian on a Saturday or Monday i find i probably actually only get through a third of it at best...how much time do they think we have? what i'd like best is a happy medium - broadsheet sensibilities in tabloid format...tho my favourite 'newspaper' is the London Metro cos its free, its just news and no opinions, and Claire Allfree is the best music journalist out there right now for me

blueski, Wednesday, 9 October 2002 21:20 (nineteen years ago) link

nineteen years pass...

This is a sad story and a well articulated take on what happens when all you have left is social media.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/10/gannett-local-newspaper-hawk-eye-iowa/619847/

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 13 October 2021 14:41 (one week ago) link


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