Why I don’t like the Broadsheet v Tabloid argument
First of all, let’s agree that the word ‘Tabloid’ is not a dirty word, and the word ‘Broadsheet’ does not automatically guarantee higher standards. Every form of journalism has to verify sources and check facts, whether it’s written, spoken or video journalism. The unspoken rules of journalism- basically, don’t make it up and you’ll be fine - do not differentiate between the various forms of writing. (The National Enquirer aside.)
I was at a journalism panel recently called Dancing About Architecture, during which someone brought up the idea that the death of long-form journalism, typically associated with broadsheet papers, would mean an overall dumbing down of the country. While not really confident enough to say anything on my first night there, this conclusion has incensed me ever since.
Perhaps my favourite lecturer in college instilled in me his love for tabloids, or perhaps I just prefer the style having had the chance to try both in college, but I prefer tabloid journalism. I prefer reading it, and I certainly prefer writing it.
Tabloid writing is all about getting the most important information to the reader in the shortest amount of time. Your headline must encompass the key points of the article and the ‘5 questions’(who, when, where, why and how) must appear in the first 2-3 lines. The middle of the article is the slightly less important but relevant information, and the end of the article is the superfluous stuff, things like past histories etc, that nobody will cry over should they hit the copy-room floor to save space. Broadsheet writing, however, while a more involved, in-depth look at pieces, it can sometimes be used as a platform by journalists who want to show off their vocabulary.
Personally I find that broadsheet readers (and this opinion is garnered from observing broadsheet readers related to me) feel that it is a more clever, better form of journalism. However, in my opinion, there doesn’t seem to be any rules about conveying information to the reader; the customer. I sometimes get bored before I finish a long-form article not because I am ‘stupid’ but because in this fast paced world of 140 characters or less, finding the time to read long, in-depth articles is sometimes something you neither can or want to do. Perhaps in this time of 140 characters or less, 1,000 and 2,000 word articles are old-fashoned and out-dated. I don’t believe, however, that this means we as a society are somehow ‘dumber’.
It is my understanding that there are people, both creators and consumers, that believe that in a ‘dumbed down’ world filled with tweets and internet blogs that broadsheets alone are maintaining the standards of journalism. They believe that long-form journalist is the last link to an intelligent society who can do and understand more than reblogs and status updates - the last standing representatives of intelligence.
I’m not disputing that broadsheet has it’s place, and I’m also not disputing the fact that I enjoy a healthy mix of long-form and short-form. My Dad reads the Irish Times while I read the Independent, for example. In my house, the word ‘tabloid’ is not allowed to be spoken like a dirty word, and in return, broadsheet writing is respected. We live and let live. Sometimes we even swap papers.
I don’t dispute that long form, or broadsheet, journalism has it’s place in our society, the same way tabloids do. Each bring a very different thing to the table. I enjoy features, and opinion pieces, most of which don’t really feature in the tabloid structure. I like getting the information hard and fast, which tabloids are better at. I do think we need them both, but I wish that champions of both could co-exist without casting aspersions on the other.