Qualities versus Tabloids

I have pondered the qualities versus tabloids debate a few times recently. I’ve compared and contrasted them on occasion and looked at how they both cover the same main news stories in very different ways.

So, I personally read a quality paper. The Times to be precise. I chose The Times a few years back because I wanted to read a daily broadsheet and I liked its sophisticated look. That may be a typically female incentive to decide on a publication, but that was my initial reason.

I did however, fall in love with it. The diversity of its different sections such as news, science, arts, culture and world news provide me with everything I want from a daily. But mainly, I love the writing style in The Times, although its articles are serious and the journalistic standard is high, they are clear and concise. I like to absorb what I read, not to feel as though I have to read a paragraph two or three times to crack some cryptic literary jargon. I also love the fiesty opinion columnists and often flick rapidly to that section to see what they are saying on current issues before I decide which news stories to read.

Having said all that, it frustrates me greatly when people say they read qualities because they think it makes them appear clever or intellectual and I think that, particularly for journalism students, many feel obligated to say they read a quality newspaper because it shows their appreciation of good journalism or reflects their aspirations.

I come from a very working class family where all the males are tradesmen. That’s not to say they don’t devour books or watch parliamentary question time (that’s a given) but they also read tabloids. I live in a rural area, a mining village until the 1920’s where there are lots of working class families and lots of tabloid readers.

I think tabloids are brilliant. Snobbery about them escapes me. Yes, they are sensationalised, often unreliable, full of celebrity culture, colourful pictures and the like but they do have news content and in my humble opinion I think they serve their purpose in making news accesible to everyone.

Working class men grabbing their Gregg’s sausage rolls and filling up their Transit vans at petrol stations each morning are buying their daily copies of The Sun and regardless of the worth of the journalism, they are obtaining news in some form.

These young working lads or lasses want a light-hearted overview of what’s going on in the world, not some hoity toity ramblings or a dull, sea of grey print. The majority of society is made up of straight-forward, down to earth working folk who want to know what’s going down but it’s not on their agenda to consume political happenings or economical information and store it for dinner party conversation. Tabloids successfully serve their purpose here and like it or lump it, they still report news and you will still be suitably informed on current affairs if you read their news.

In further advocacy of the tabloids and their journalism, I have to commend The Sun in particular for their headlines. Their headlines, in my opinion, are quite simply genius. If I could find a publication which combined a Sun headline with a Times article, I’d be in heaven.

I’ve often bought a quality and tabloid on the same day to look at the different newspaper’s approaches to their articles. Last week I had The Scotsman and The Sun. I was writing an article for the Journal about the SNPs calls to fly the Saltire above the Union flag at Edinburgh Castle. The Scotsman’s headline was “Calls for Saltire to be flown above Union flag at Edinburgh Castle.” Whilst The Sun wrote “Hassle at the Castle.”

Another example I can think of is when Gordon Brown left number 10 Downing Street in May this year. The Guardian’s headline was “Gordon Brown says farewell to number 10.” The Sun, wrote boldly over a picture of the sullen Prime Minister, “Brown and Out.”

This is just my own opinion but I think there’s a stroke of undeniable brilliance in these headlines. That’s not to say that journalists working for quality papers are not capable of writing them, just that they and their publications choose not to. The tabloids do and rightly or wrongly, I find them hilarious and a welcome relief from the ‘serious’ journalism many of us, often snobbily, say we prefer.

Lisa Toner

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5 Responses

  1. Interesting blog Lisa!, Totally agree with you. I myself as a journalist student feel I should be reading the ‘prestigious’ newspapers such as the guardian but to be honest the articles are not trying to hook you into the story or even attempt to excite you so usually I just have to step away from it and go back to it later after a nice relaxing sun!

  2. Superb blog, I really enjoyed it. I agree, I can imagine a big machine in The Sun HQ where each journalist writes down the key words of their article, chucks them into the machine which then produces the stunning headlines! When Diane said to physically go out to buy a paper for those, like me, who usually tend to only read the news online, I bought the Sunday Herald and was, in all honestly, underwhelmed. I don’t think it’s wrong at all to read tabloids – reading a bigger range of writing styles cannot be a bad thing.

  3. Totally agree with you Lisa! The Sun hooks you in, whereas some of the more ‘snobby’ newspapers make you want to go to sleep!

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