…Or, how have tabloids survived this long in a “sophisticated” society?


by Henry Kueppers

Tabloids are everywhere. They are on shelves at grocery stores, gas stations and dentist’s offices. They litter grandma’s coffee table and plague every conversation you have with your Aunt Denise. And even online, tabloids infiltrate apps like Snapchat with the little stories from tabloids like The New York Daily News or The New York Post. Now, when I talk about tabloids, I’m not talking about an opinions piece from an established newspaper. I am talking about those magazines that purposefully sensationalize stories in order to shock and offend readers. These are the newspapers that write weird theories or lies about celebrities based solely on rumors.

This is why they are so different from legitimate journalism. A tabloid like The New York Post can write headlines like, “Barack Obama punches baby penguins for fun in his spare time.” It appears as though the writers sometimes do little research, conduct no interviews and seem to post the story without worrying about consequences because they know people will want to read about that. Meanwhile, credible news sources like The New York Times will say, “Hey, we should probably check with at least 10 other publications to see if Obama really does this, and even then, we should definitely back it up with firsthand accounts and supplemental interviews.” Real journalism cares about facts and puts in the time to give ethical and correct stories. Tabloids do not, and that is why they make my blood boil.

These gossip-filled, shallow passes at journalism infuriate me for two main reasons: First, tabloids essentially bring us to our most primal state of humanity because they are so simplistic and hateful. By providing stories with zero evidence or credibility, tabloids create a vacuum that keeps out all common sense and ethics and encourages vanity and judgement.

The second reason I hate tabloids is because they are so wildly entertaining, and I can’t stop myself from reading them. (Because as much as I hate to admit it to myself, I am deeply invested in who Zac Efron has dated and who he is rumored to be dating). Here is the question I pose to you today: How have tabloids survived for this long? Why do people continually cite them like credible news sources when they are about as credible as a mean girl in high school telling you that Billy Rents has a crush on you? You know that can’t be true because Billy doesn’t even know you exist, but at the same time, you so desperately want to believe this piece of news.

Just like imperialism, poor dental hygiene and Ricky Gervais, we have the British to blame for tabloid news. The first tabloid newspaper was published in 1903 in London by a town gossip named Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe (I really wish I made that name up, but no, that was all his parents’ choice. Apparently, his parents absolutely hated him and wanted a terrible life for him). Since then, even in the dawn of the internet and social media, tabloid news, like the parasite it is, has learned to adapt and stay relevant. Tabloids are so prevalent that even today we have important public figures, like mayors, senators and, oh yeah, the president citing tabloids as real news, even when it was the furthest thing from the truth.

Clearly, tabloid newspapers wield an ancient, unexplainable dark magic, and that is why they are still catching the attention of readers all over the world. My greatest fear is that so many young minds like my own will soon be corrupted and corroded by tabloid news. For that reason, I sat down with a fellow college student and asked him his thoughts on tabloid news, whether or not he consumes it and where he get his news sources:

Fourth-year student Alex Church:

Alex, my first question for you is what are your thoughts in general on tabloid news?

I guess it depends on what we think of tabloid news because immediately when I think of tabloid news, my first thought is like the supermarket: People Magazine, Daily Inquirer, sources like that. But in general, I do not really consider them to be quality hard news. I mean, every other time that you go to the grocery store, you see some sort of article about how Kim Kardashian has been injected with alien eggs or Prince Harry took a dump in front of the Queen—

I read that one.

Yeah, they’re not exactly sources that have proven themselves in the past to be trustworthy.

Where do you get your news sources then?

My biggest ones are NPR, The New York Times, Politico and The Hill.

Final question: Why are tabloids able to survive in our “sophisticated” society?

Our society is deeply steeped in celebrity culture. We Americans have always loved celebrities and the allure of being famous. Since the advent of magazines, we’ve been just obsessed with them. And I think it’s partially because it’s just like a mindless entertainment that lets people dream of like, ‘Oh, what if my life was like the Kardashians? What if I just became famous overnight?’ And I think tabloids are a way for us to daydream and live vicariously through these people, and [tabloids] have the benefit of being salacious toward these people that we look up to.

Please stop giving tabloid newspapers your viewership. They are seedy, gross organizations that parade around people’s insecurities and private lives. They spread rumors and hate. Before you think about reading another tabloid, ask yourself these questions: Is this something that could contribute to a meaningful conversation? Or, is this just going to satisfy some weird little demon in your head who wants to see the top 10 nip slips of 2002? If you answer yes to either of these, you still shouldn’t read it.