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Tablodization and the Media, Vol. 5 - 1998, No. 3

Mistaken Identities: Tabloid and Broadsheet News Discourse

, pages: 11-31

The author discusses two important perspectives on "tabloidisation" and its supposed impact upon news discourses: the polarisation perspective attributes to the changes in news journalism a sharpening differentiation and polarisation between tabloid and broadsheet newspapers, while according to the homogenising view, sensational journalism which once seemed to be confined to the media for lowbrow consumers, now spreads to all media. The article argues that tabloidisation debates often do not compare like with like, which follows in mistaken conclusions. A case in point is fabulous reportage as a specific form of journalistic discourse that cannot be considered a trivial form of news discourse, but a discourse sui generis, a distinct genre. Consequently, it does not make sense to compare broadsheet news discourse with fabulous reportage in tabloid newspapers; a valid comparison is between tabloid news discourse with broadsheet news discourse. The article presents such a comparative content analysis of news discourses in five broadsheet and five tabloid newspapers in the UK. The analysis if focused on five features of the supposed homogenisation: the coverage of foreign news, the use of pictorial material, the "softening" of hard news, and changes in topical patterns. It shows that the "classical" news discourse has not been "tabloidised," and this may also hold good for news discourse in tabloid newspapers.

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