The other day I picked up a tabloid newspaper and there on page one was a story about Simon Cowell making plans for impending fatherhood. Buried back on page 42 was a story about a man fatally stabbed in East London.
This got me thinking about our priorities in this day and age. A life tragically lost in a senseless crime, so what if Simon Cowell has impregnated a woman!
Tabloid newspapers have never been expected to deliver War and Peace length essays on the economy or international diplomacy. But when I was growing up newspapers such as The Sun delivered all the news, good and bad, worthy and light-hearted, in clear and concise language for the working class. Yes they were a big tongue in cheek and sometimes a bit naughty, but they also managed to cover all the important events of the day.
In later years when I became a magazine publisher I heard it said many times over that being political editor of The Sun was a far tougher task than say the highbrow Telegraph. Why? Because The Sun political editor has to cut out all the jargon and detail, and get to the nuts and bolts of a complex issue while maintaining the interest of White Van Man, who will turn over quicker than you can say Deidre’s Photo Casebook the second he gets bored . A writer for a broadsheet has so much more leeway and space to explain complex policies and political intrigues.
But is it still the same today, I wonder? Are tabloids still delivering that mix of quirky and light-hearted along with the meaty subject matters of the moment? Or have they just done away with the meaningful stuff and opted to just be an outlet for celebrity gossip? Does anyone pick up a tabloid anymore expecting to get any serious news?
I am not against the fun stuff by the way or good news. It doesn’t have to be all about death and destruction in fact I often feature good news on the front of my magazines. But I just wonder whether the definition of what makes a good, light-hearted tabloid news story has become confused with mindless celebrity trivia. There is a difference.
I write all this aware that as a magazine editor, someone somewhere will criticise my editorial judgement. And I suppose I will have to cope with that. But I wonder if we have been bombarded with so much mindless celebrity dross in recent years that we have become unable to recognise what really matters.