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

An Audience Perspective on the Tabloidisation of News in the USA

, pages: 33-49

In the United States, television news is where the issue of tabloidisation is most loudly debated, as news merges into the countless talk shows and syndicated "reality" programming. While critics often place the blame on the journalism profession itself, I focus on the audience drive toward tabloidisation, critiquing both the uncritical celebration of the "active" audience, and the view that audiences are simply mindless recipients of whatever journalists feed them. Using data from a small study of news audiences, I argue that we must understand the value of dramatic, narrative news in everyday life. At the same time, I argue that the storytelling news style, characterised by disconnected, highly personal narratives, is in danger of replacing rational, considered, and critical analysis in news. In particular, young people are becoming less interested in news, and less critical of the techniques typical of tabloid style. I conclude that we must strive to develop a journalism that could embrace tabloid style, while still inviting audiences to participate more fully in a civic democracy. If journalism cannot rise to that challenge, it may be that in the tabloidised environment of the American news media, the battle for large-scale, serious public discourse is already lost.

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