This Just In! : A Tabloid Genre Analysis

Tabloids have been a staple in pop culture for the past century. Their flashy headlines, juicy stories, and garnered controversy surrounding those stories have made a big impact on the writing industry. Writing the latest tabloid is an art that is not explored very often. It takes a certain formula to write the perfect tabloid. This formula ends up defining the conventions of this genre. The tabloid industry is not all peaches and cream though. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the genre from false reporting to accusations of racism and sexism. Tabloids might look like just another trashy magazine but they have made an impact on how writers use this genre’s basic conventions to promote their work.

In order to write a good tabloid, a writer has to follow the specific conventions to the genre. According to the website Writer’s Digest, writing a tabloid is an art with specific key aspects that are unique to the genre. One of the key aspects is that the headline has to be eye-catching. Writer’s Digest columnist Peter Reilley states “Boring is the cardinal sin of tabloids” (Reilly). Instead a tabloid writer wants to have a headline that will be eye-catching such as “Headless Body in Topless Bar” or “Tiger Puts Balls in Wrong Place Again”. The next key aspect was to make a long story short. According to Writer’s Digest, you have “to take 10 pages of notes and distill them into one page of copy packed with fascinating details, illuminating background, and hard-hitting action.” (Reilly). The readers wants short and sweet so the more you narrow it down the better. The next two key aspects were to use active verbs and have fun with puns. Active verbs give the headline that bounce it needs. Readers would rather pick up a magazine that says “Cops busted Robert Downey Jr. for drugs,” than “Robert Downey Jr. was taken into custody by police for the possession of an illegal substance.” Similar to active verbs, puns have a way of making the headline seem more interesting to the public. When actor Harrison Ford was dating a much younger women, the tabloid magazine Star referred to him as the “Raider of the Lost Cradle.” The readers had a kick out of this funny play on words.  These key aspects are what defines the genre conventions of a tabloid.

Tabloids may be just be a trashy magazine to some readers but it influences genres that have similar conventions such as newspapers. Newspapers are similar to tabloids because they also rely on flashy headlines to get sales at the local convenience stores. They write their stories in a way that’s less flashy but still captures the point. Tabloid topics such as actors assaulting celebrity photographers, rumors of actresses having eating disorders, or celebrities having surgically done body parts always make their way into newspaper headlines. Even though this influence is small, it goes to show that tabloids have a great impact on what we pick up at our local convenience store. The tabloid genre also has an influence on the internet. Now more than ever, more readers are getting their news from online sources and social media platforms. The tabloid industry has adjust to these new norms by making their stories marketable to online communities. This requires them to mesh their original conventions of the genre to create their own social media accounts on predominate social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. That way the tabloid industry can grow and evolve within the writing community.

A tabloid’s target audience are women ages 18-50 who want something to read to keep them busy while waiting for their hair to be done or the doctor to be ready to see them. The people who write this genre usually work in the tabloid industry or are paparazzi trying to get an in on the latest celebrity scandal. As a member of the discourse community, my role is to consume the information in the tabloid and analyze how it impacts our society. Tabloids bind us together. For example, two women are waiting to get their hair done and are reading the tabloids that are near the coffee table. One woman starts a discussion about how a celebrity got a nose job. The other woman starts a conversation on how another celebrity punched a paparazzi in the face. They start to talk about more content in these tabloids and it eventually turns out to be a full-blown conversation. Tabloids are made to use their flashy materials to create a conversations revolving around their shocking content.

Tabloids have to run the flashy headlines with the most shocking stories. In order to get those stories, they may have to exaggerate the truth or full on lie in their stories when it comes to big scandals such as break-ups, marriages, and pregnancies. This has become such a problem that the website Gawker has decided to do a test to see whether these tabloid publications (US Weekly, Life & Style, In Touch, OK!, and Star) would lie on their covers as well as in the issues. All of the covers and all of the content scored less than 50% in the telling the truth category. This goes to show that the tabloid industry thrives off false information to get their revenue. Consumers have to know that most of these stories are based off lies but they do not care because they want the story to sell so badly that they do not care if about the validity of the information. In fact, there is so much lying in this industry that it is hard for tabloid writers to have other writers take them seriously. According to a disgruntled ex-tabloid writer Krista Bradford, buying stories is “a tradition” and they will do whatever it takes. Truth is rarely a concern when revenue is on the line. She also mentions that once you are in the genre it is hard to get out of and it damages your reputation. She said “I met with network news people and they were telling me frankly the tabloid thing was quite a problem”. Genres that tend to focus on more serious work have a hard time taking the tabloid industry seriously.

Although tabloids are a staple in the writing industry, they have also caused a lot of controversy. One of the first controversies is the blatant sexism that appears in the headlines. When talking about women celebrities, headlines are often focused on their body parts, clothing choices, and overall appearance rather their professional or social achievements. To challenge this notion, the literary magazine Vagenda, decided to have their followers take sexist tabloid headlines and re-create them without the sexism. For example, one tabloid’s original sexist headline said “It’s a bit nippy out! Rihanna shows off her nipples…AGAIN” was changed to “Women goes to sports event wearing a top”. This example showed how the tabloids always focuses women’s body parts even in the most unessacery situations. Another example was the tabloid’s original sexist headline was “She’ll do anything for Girls! Luna Dunham shows off her body in unflattering shorts as she films hit show” to “Hugely talented writer continues to work on hit TV show”. This example not only degraded Lena Dunham’s appearance but used her hit TV show Girls as a pun to downplay her accomplishments. This is the type of sexism in the tabloids is degrading to women because it focuses on what’s on the outside rather then what is on the inside. A newfound respect for women must be acquired in order to gain more respect in the writing community.

From a passerby’s view, a tabloid is nothing but a trashy magazine consumed by young adult women to kill time but that could not be further from the truth. Writing a tabloid is an art. The tabloid writer has to figure out a strong headline and with an eye-catching picture and write juicy, outrageous stories that will keep the reader hooked and give the reader material to talk about with others. The tabloid industry has quite the reputation. The first issue that comes to mind is the lying that is rampant in industry. Nearly, every tabloid lies. The other problem that seems to be rampant is sexism. When talking about other women, the tabloids tend to focus on clothes, body parts, and overall appearance instead of their achievements. This is particularly degrading to women because women are more than just their body parts. These issues do not deter tabloids from making an impact on how gossipy writing is shaped from generation to generation. The reason why tabloids sell is because the hype surrounding their content which other genres have accustomed too. Despite its negative reputation, the tabloid genre has shaped the way writers capture the hearts of their readers.

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