Tabloid Newspapers: Mocked but Mighty

To encourage riders to remove and recycle their newspapers rather than leave them on the train, the London Underground has posted signs proclaiming in bolded capital letters that “The newspaper you’re reading is rubbish”. On my train this morning, a wag had scribbled in below this pronouncement “That’s the Mail for you”.

That was the second laugh I got at the expense of the UK tabloid newspapers this week. The first was when I was digging through a pile of newspapers and read the screaming headline of the Daily Express “PLAN CRAP PENSIONS”. When I removed the FT from on top of that rag, I saw that when no longer partially obscured, the headline was “NEW PLAN TO SCRAP PENSIONS”. But the headline as I misread it would not have been out of character for the paper.

Despite the disdain the tabloids draw from many people, including me, they remain enormously popular and influential. The Daily Mail operates one of the most widely visited news websites in the world and the whispered rumour that “The Sun is strongly opposed to your policy proposal and is planning a cover story” is enough to freeze the blood of even the most senior politicians.

But back to mockery. My friend Kevin Grant, a delightful British wit, penned this memorable summary of British newspapers for the television series “Yes, Prime Minister”.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

5 thoughts on “Tabloid Newspapers: Mocked but Mighty”

  1. Surely Faux News is the American equivalent of the Mail…..seems like a good portion of America has given up on reading the papers or maybe reading altogether.

    1. Not quite. While conservative, the Daily Mail is primarily engaging in aggressive populism, with the conservatism being incidental, not being a water carrier for the Tories. As a friend once put it, “[Paul] Dacre has never seen an ankle that he was unwilling to bite”.

      Or, as this article describes it: “The paper’s defining ideology is that Britain has gone to the dogs.”

      1. Agree with Katja. The Mail loves for example a nice, juicy scandal involving politicians and will go for the throat irrespective of the political party of the people concerned.

  2. Speaking of trash right-wing newspapers, The Wisonsin State Journal once ran a headline about a Tommy Thompson veto spree that, thanks to tight kerning, appeared to say

    a Sword

    Which is probably when he.first got delusions about the presidency.

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