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The Sensation of Tabloids

Tabloids cover everything from celebrity scandals to the truly bizarre. They differ dramatically from “serious” journalism, in which facts are checked and confirmed with multiple sources. As far-fetched as many stories may seem, tabloid journalists do usually try to base their articles off truth– making up stories is a last resort. The term “tabloid” originally referred to the size and format of a newspaper. Now, it’s known more for its content than its size.

1570s-1800s: Stories are widely published warning against a variety of sins.

1826:The shift from handcrafted printing to steam powered printing makes mass production possible.

The New York Herald penny press

The Penny Press becomes famous for only costing 1¢ compared to regular newspapers that cost 6¢.

1830s: Newspapers begin to publish less formal, human interest stories. These appealed to the senses and emotions of readers using vivid imagery and simple sentences.

1833: Benjamin Day starts the first successful “modern” tabloid, The New York Sun.

Late 1800s: “Era of Yellow Journalism.” The infamous William Randolph Hearst purchases the New York World in 1883, renaming it the New York Journal (later comes to be known as the New York Journal-American). Hearst publishes wild exaggerations and false stories to increase circulation: 

1919: First daily tabloid in the United States, The New York Daily News, is founded.

1930s: Great Depression. New York Journal, among other tabloids, don’t survive.

 1950s: Birth of The National Enquirer as we know it today.

1952: Tabloids are taken in a new direction–gory crime scene photographs and murder stories increase circulation. Rupert Murdoch later adds celeb photographs and sex scandals to the mix.

1980s-1990s: Supermarket tabloid circulation reaches the tens of millions.

Today: In the height of tabloid popularity (1970s-1980s), The National Enquirer‘s circulation was over 5 million; today. it’s just over 2.7 million. There has been a 60% drop in circulation. This is most likely a result of their popularity; Mainstream media has adopted some tabloid tactics. Today there are different mediums aside from Page 6 and supermarket tabloids; today we have television, juicy gossip radio segments, the internet.


Grabianowski, Ed. “How Tabloids Work.”howstuffworks. Web. <;

“National Enquirer.” Wikipedia. Print. <;.

“Tabloid (Newspaper Format).” Wikipedia. Web. <;.

Vance, Jennifer. “Penny Press.” A Brief History of Newspapers in America. Web. <;.

“Yellow Journalism.” Wikipedia. Print. <;.


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