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The Sensation of Tabloids

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So, last week I talked about whether tabloids are truly as detrimental as we think, and the general consensus from the poll was that tabloids are not good in any way. There are, however, those out there that think tabloids hold some value. I was surprised to find an academic article about the uses of supermarket tabloids in the educational setting. The author (s), fed up with students pulling from the samer sources and recycling high school papers, had the idea of having students use tabloids:

“One evening in 1987 I was standing on line in the local supermarket, absentmindedly perusing the headlines of the tabloid newspapers that clutter the counter there. I read, “Half man, half woman makes self pregnant,” in dark print and bold letters. “What an interesting proposition!” I thought. I was amused by the headline until the two women standing behind me com- mented to each other, “I wonder if that can really happen?” At that moment I began to wonder how many people were taken in by the sensationalism of tabloid writing. Checking through the titles available on the counter that evening, I realized that much of the sensation centered around sex-related topics (“Women’s Lib Scaring Men Out Of Marriage, ” or “Oops! Mom’s Test Tube Baby’s The Wrong Color,” or “After Twelve Years of Marriage Wife Dis- covers Hubby Is A Woman”). It occurred to me that some lesson might be learned in all of this.”

The author goes to talk about the importance of helping students develop their critical faculties, and so she emailed a small selection of tabloids to a professor with the question of how “some of these sensational articles that played on superstition and popular mis-information to induce her students to think critically about topics related to human sexuality.” Professor Parrot replied, and made an argument for why these would be useful in a sociology classroom.

“Many of us have stood in the checkout lines in the supermarket and have read the headlines of the Enquirer, the Star, or the Examiner with their seemingly outrageous claims. “Earth Woman Has Martian Baby,” and “Baby Kicks Twin Out Of The Womb” are not headlines that a scholar can take very seriously, although I am well aware that many people may obtain most of their sex information from these very newspapers. My assumption has always been that all of the articles printed in these tabloids were inaccurate at best and totally false at worst. When I actually studied the articles, however, I learned (much to my surprise) that some of them are reasonably accurate even though the information is often presented in a dubious way. (The author of the article might cite an expert in the field but neither names the expert nor cites the scholarship from which the information was taken.) Although the headlines are nearly always sensational, the stories themselves might be quite rational in tone. The article headed, “Woman Pregnant For Twelve Years,” for example, actually described a situation in which a woman had carried a dead fetus for 12 years. Because only a few students regularly read national newspapers or watch network news, this approach helps them understand more about the national and international events that affect their lives. Bonomo believes that by using news segments in teaching sociology we can expose students to contemporary events and create intellectual interest in analyzing them, which would supplement their theoretical and conceptual exposure to social issues. News bias does not seem to be a significant problem as long as students are taught analytical and critical thinking skills.”

Dr. Parrot had the students select their research topics from a list of issues or stories found in tabloids. Though they had some issues with finding sources, what I got from the article was that it was overall a positive experience:

“…Apart from helping us broaden the scope of the papers and there- by decreasing the strain on the limited library resources (because students used a much greater variety of materials), the students had many good things to say this assignment. Their comments included such statements as “I wanted an assignment which would allow me to be more creative than if I had to write a traditional research paper. The claims in the tabloid were so bizarre that I was forced to read the article very carefully and to be very critical. I had to really work hard to find sources to refute its claims. I’m glad I had an opportunity to write the paper, and I learned a lot.” Another student remarked, “Writing this paper entailed much more work than I had expected and was very time consuming. I had to consult a lot of literature with which I was not familiar and found that difficult.” Although one might see this as a negative comment, the student was trying to point out that she had learned a great deal by undertaking something hard to do.”

Both Dr. Parrot and her research assistants felt that this method not only helped the students think critically/examine all literature with a critical eye, but also cut down on plagiarism and and provide students with interesting topics they wouldn’t normally think of addressing.

I thought this was a really cool thing. If I was still going into teaching, this is something I probably would have considered trying in a class. So while the general consensus is that tabloids aren’t useful at all, there are those out there who think that they may have some use after all. After reading this article, I think my opinion did change slightly. I wonder if the people I questioned would think the same thing…


Parrot, Andrea and Joan Ormondroyd.  “Can a Woman Really Be Pregnant for Twelve Years? Or Is Scholarly Learning Possible from Reading the Tabloids?”. Teaching Sociology , Vol. 20, No. 2 (Apr., 1992), pp. 158-164. American Sociological Association.              Article Stable URL:


Here’s a great question: Aside from the entertainment value, do supermarket tabloids help expand our point of view and stimulate creative imagination, or are they as detrimental as is assumed?

NO I don’t think that tabloids stimulate creativity at all. Because most of the articles are negative ,junior, high school-style gossip.

NO Supermarket tabloids are detrimental. All that they do is allow editors and writers to create absurd situations for the characters that their articles are about.

NO I find them stupid.

YES and NO They do not expand our point of view. This is mostly due to the fact that they are almost entirely rooted in fiction. It’s not as if they present different sides of true stories. On the other hand, I would say that they definitely stimulate our creative imagination. Mostly due to the fact that they are fictional.

NO I think that tabloids are detrimental to society as they project a more negative outlook.

NO I think theyre completely detrimental because if they did offer any creativity, they wouldnt always seem to be trying the same thing, and that is: create scandal. They just want views and people to pick up their magazine, they dont actually care about what theyre writing and half the time they are making it up anyway.

NO They do serve as a bad example of what journalism is.

YES and NO I think they do help to expand our viewpoint and to stimulate creative imagination. But it’s a double-edged sword as well, in that I think such tabloids are partly responsible for the “Jerry Springer” syndrome causing American societal values to deteriorate.

YES All good fiction has some basis in fact.

NO They purport to tell news while destroying the lives of the innocent.

The masses have spoken. Looks like it’s a big fat NO as far as tabloids being positive goes.

While looking for information on self-publishing, I cam across this article:

Start Your Own Magazine

There’s a lot of really great information in this piece! For example, I had NO idea that 9 out of 10 new magazines fail. Or that roughly 1,000 magazines are launched every year.

Right now I’m doing an internship at the Laurel Mountain Post, which looks like a magazine, but also has a lot of the characteristics of a newsletter…most likely because it’s local. It still amazes me that this magazine is free. This magazine is, for the most part a one-woman show. Cathi Gerhard accepts submissions and there are a lot of people that write stuff for every issue, but Cathi puts together the layouts, edits, prints, etc. independently. As her intern, I’m seeing first hand what self-publishing a magazine is like. I help her proofread all the articles, and I also contribute articles, work on the community calendar, and help with the copy editing. There is SO much to do to make every issue happen–and getting people to submit their articles on time is a major pain the the butt (I know it would be different with a major publication).

You could almost say that the Laurel Mountain Post is like a tabloid. ALMOST. It appeals to a certain demographic, but covers a broad range of topics, so there’s something for everyone. There’s a lot about local happenings and people, which is what supermarket tabloids are really all about (minus the local part!).

For four decades, Michael Jackson played a big role in shaping our pop culture/history. Whether through his music, his groundbreaking videos, or his drastic changes in appearance, people talked about him, and still do today–but mostly concerning his appearance and what we see in the tabloids.

Before and After

As Michael’s popularity grew, so did the tabloid attention – with tales of Michael sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber and trying to purchase the skeleton of The Elephant Man that caused him to be dubbed ‘Wacko Jacko.’ More controversy erupted in 1993 when it was revealed that Michael had children sleeping over at his Neverland Ranch, prompting accusations of sexual abuse and a lawsuit by one of his alleged victims. The matter was settled out of court in 1994, but the damage to Michael’s career had been done. Later that year, Michael married Lisa Marie Presley, presenting her with an awkward kiss at the 1994 MTV VMAs. The marriage between the ‘King of Pop’ and the ‘Princess of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ broke up after only two years. In 1996, he married his dermatologist’s nurse Debbie Rowe, and during their brief, three-year marriage had two children, Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. (a/k/a/ Prince) and Paris Michael Katherine. Michael also had a third child, Prince Michael Jackson II (nicknamed ‘Blanket’) in 2002, who, in another infamous incident, was dangled over a hotel balcony in Berlin. Despite the scandals, Michael’s albums continued to sell well, with his 2002 release Invincible sold 10 million copies worldwide. In December of 2003, he was charged with child molestation and went to trail in January of 2005, eventually being acquitted of the charges. As evidence of the singer’s continuing popularity, the 25th anniversary edition of Thriller has been a worldwide success, reaching No. 2 on the U.S. album charts. Love him or hate him, Michael Jackson is still the ‘King of Pop’ – and pop culture.

So many tabloids headlines surrounded Jackson’s personal life:

  • He bleached his skin because he wanted to be white.
  • Numerous nose jobs had caused MJ’s nose to fall off.
  • Jackson molested former child star McCaulay Calkin.
  • Jackson and his ex-wife Debbie Rowe are not the biological parents of his three children.
  • Jackson’s dermatologist is the biological father of his children.
  • Jackson cross-dressed and lived a closeted gay lifestyle.

Rather than sitting back and taking crap from the tabloids, Jackson gave statements to many of these claims, and even wrote/produced a song called “Tabloid Junkie.”

Tabloid Junkie

Speculate to break the one you hate
Circulate the lie you confiscate
Assassinate and mutilate
As the hounding media in hysteria
Who’s the next for you to resurrect
JFK exposed the CIA
Truth be told the grassy knoll
As the blackmail story in all your glory

It’s slander
You say it’s not a sword
But with your pen you torture men
You’d crucify the Lord
And you don’t have to read it, read it
And you don’t have to eat it, eat it
To buy it is to feed it, feed it
So why do we keep foolin’ ourselves

Just because you read it in a magazine
Or see it on the TV screen
Don’t make it factual
Though everybody wants to read all about it
Just because you read it in a magazine
Or see it on the TV screen
Don’t make it factual, actual
They say he’s homosexual

In the hood
Frame him if you could
Shoot to kill
To blame him if you will
If he dies sympathize
Such false witnesses
Damn self righteousness
In the black
Stab me in the back
In the face
To lie and shame the race
Heroine and Marilyn
As the headline stories of
All your glory

It’s slander
With the words you use
You’re a parasite in black and white
Do anything for news
And you don’t go and buy it, buy it
And they won’t glorify it, ‘fy it
To read it sanctifies it, ‘fies it
Then why do we keep foolin’ ourselves
Just because you read it in a magazine
Or see it on the TV screen
Don’t make it factual
Everybody wants to read all about it
Just because you read it in a magazine
Or see it on the TV screen
Don’t make it factual
See, but everybody wants to believe all about it

Just because you read it in a magazine
Or see it on the TV screen
Don’t make it factual
See, but everybody wants to believe all about it
Just because you read it in a magazine
Or see it on the TV screen
Don’t make it factual, actual
She’s blonde and she’s bisexual

With the words you use
You’re a parasite in black and white
Do anything for news
And you don’t go and buy it, buy it
And they won’t glorify it, ‘fy it
To read it sanctifies it, ‘fies it
Why do we keep foolin’ ourselves
You say it’s not a sin
But with your pen you torture men
Then why do we keep foolin’ ourselves

Just because you read it in a magazine
Or see it on the TV screen
Don’t make it factual
Though everybody wants to read all about it
Just because you read it in a magazine
Or see it on the TV screen
Don’t make it factual
See, but everybody wants to read all about it

Just because you read it in a magazine
Or see it on the TV screen
Don’t make it factual
Just because you read it in a magazine
Or see it on the TV screen
Don’t make it factual
Just because you read it in a magazine
Or see it on the TV screen
Don’t make it factual, actual
You’re so damn disrespectable


Google “gossip blogs.” Holy crap– it’s not just on paper anymore! Tabloids have really developed in this “Age of Internet,” one of the most popular forms being gossip blogs. Here is a list of the top 20 celebrity gossip blogs:

1. Perez Hilton– Perez Hilton is the Hollywood’s most sassy website which has been delivering the juiciest celebrity gossip since 2004. The blog is the go-to source for daily happenings in Hollywood. Written by the internet’s most notorious gossip columnist, Perez Hilton (Mario Lavandeira).

2. PopEater– Want the latest celebrity news? PopEater is one of the best celebrity gossip blos to get the hottest entertainment news and celebrity gossip about your favorite movies, music and TV celebrities.

3. Gawker– Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news. Gawker delivers celebrity gossip news and scandals on a daily basis.

4. Thirty Mile Zone– Celebrity gossip and entertainment news, covering celebrity news and Hollywood rumors. Get all the latest gossip at TMZ – Thirty Mile Zone.

5. The Skinny Website– A celebrity gossip blog pertaining to the discussion of celebrity weight, diets, body and exercise.

6. POPSUGAR– PopSugar features breaking news, hot photos, amazing videos and event recaps on the day’s most popular stars.

7. Starpulse– A popular celebrity gossip blog covering entertainment, entertainment news, celebrity gossip, celebrity photo, celeb pics, music, movies, video games, television and tv shows.

8. I’m Not Obsessed– Offers celebrity gossip, celebrity pictures, celebrity news, celebrity videos, Paparazzi photos, Hollywood gossip and more.

9. Radar Online– Get the latest celebrity news and gossip, as well as fashion and style tips.

10. omg! from Yahoo!– Get your daily celebrity gossip on omg! Yahoo’s home for celebrity news, gossip, photos, videos, and more!

11. Celebuzz– Read the latest celeb gossip and other celebrity gossip news in Hollywood on Celebuzz. Get the dirt here.

12. Celebrity Gossip– Since 2003, Celebrity Gossip Blog featuring the latest celebrity scandals, hollywood gossip, and entertainment news including gossip girls.

13.– focuses on bringing you the latest in up-and-coming celebrity news, youth-centric trends and teen gossip. If you’re wondering the backstory on a hot young star, chances are can give you the lowdown..

14. Just Jared– Just Jared: The latest photos, news, and gossip in pop culture, celebrities, tv, movies, entertainment and more!

15.– provides the most up-to-date commentary on hot celebrity news, celebrity gossip, exclusive photos and videos of stars, plus tips on romance, beauty, style, fashion and shopping.

16. Celebitchy– Celebitchy is a gossip and entertainment blog full of pictures of your favorite and not so favorite celebrities.

17. Celebrity Baby Scoop– One of the best celebrity news and gossip blogs that offers the latest celebrity news, gossip and photos.

18. Lainey Gossip– Advanced Celebrity Gossip – Lovers, Cheaters, Homewreckers, Superstars, Famewhores, Hot Homos, Closet Homos, and everything Hollywood! Not for the Gossip Amateur!

19. Egotastic!– Offers the sexy side of celebrity gossip, because men think differently.

20. The Hollywood Gossip– Celebrity gossip blog with the latest entertainment news, pictures, and videos of your favorite stars and celebrities.

So, I thought about summarizing this article, but I feel like it’s so succinct that there’s no need. So, I’m reposting it in all it’s Gawker glory:

In the constantly-contradicting world of tabloid journalism, is anyone reliable? We analyzed 20 months of reported break-ups, marriages, and pregnancies to tabulate our first-ever Tabloid Reality Index, batting averages for America’s five major celebrity glossies and the rumors they monger.

With the aid of Jezebel’s trusty archive of tabloid covers, we looked at five types of falsifiable rumors—break-ups, pregnancies, marriages, engagements, adoptions, and reconciliations—published in Us Weekly, Star, Life & Style, In Touch, and OK! from the beginning of 2009 through the first eight months of 2010. (America’s biggest celebrity glossy, People, publishes so few unconfirmed rumors—and instead relies on scoops that have been spoon-fed by publicists—that we didn’t bother including it in the mix.) We then followed up on which rumors turned out to be true or false and used that data to estimate the accuracy of each magazine’s stories and covers. These are the results. (You can read more about our methodology here, if you’re interested.)

Which Tabloids Lie the Most?

Us Weekly

35% Cover Accuracy, 59% Overall Accuracy

Us Weekly is America’s most accurate tabloid: 35 percent of its cover stories and 59 percent of the unconfirmed reports it published during the time period we looked at turned out to be true. (The magazine’s solid batting average is derived, in part, from its tendency to rely on paid-for “exclusives” about reality stars and other C-listers.) Us correctly predicted the Winslet-Mendes divorce; it called Mel Gibson’s separation from ex-wife Robyn; and it was ahead of the curve on Hilary Duff’s engagement. Most impressively, every pregnancy and adoption Us reported during the time frame turned out to be true. The weekly did, however, muck up several major stories: It repeatedly reported Brangelina breaking up, said that Kate Hudson and Owen Wilson were reconciling, and claimed that Pink and Cary Hart were getting married. Us also jumped the gun on Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem’s marriage by seven months—a big enough error for us to classify that rumor as “false.”

Our all-time favorite Us story—that Jessica Simpson audibly farted in a meeting about her clothing line—remains proved neither true nor false to this day.

Life & Style

25% Cover Accuracy, 34% Overall Accuracy

In second place was de facto Gosselin biographer Life & Style: Jon, Kate, and their beloved Plus Eight grabbed 22 L&S covers in the space of 20 months. Despite a number of exclusives from both sides of the warring clan, L&S managed to mess up several Gosselin scoops, including one about Jon and Kate calling off their divorce. It also inaccurately predicted a Christina Aguilera divorce, a Beyonce pregnancy, and multiple buns in the oven for Jennifer Aniston.

In Touch

9% Cover Accuracy, 21% Overall Accuracy

A significant drop in accuracy accompanies us to the third-place magazine on our list. In Touchcorrectly reported Avril Lavigne’s split from Derrick Whimbley and was the first to report on Heidi Klum’s most recent pregnancy. But with the magazine relying heavily on Brangelina rumors (almost all of which turned out to be untrue)—and with 19 incorrectly reported pregnancies (Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Eva Longoria) over the 20 months—In Touch‘s batting average took a hit.


7% Cover Accuracy, 14% Overall Accuracy

The exclamatory publication tied for last place with Star magazine. (OK! had better overall accuracy but Star had better cover accuracy, according to our figures.) OK! accurately reported Halle Berry’s break-up with her Canadian model boytoy, as well as the Cruz-Bardem marriage. The mag’s failures, however, were numerous: OK! falsely reported multiple Jennifer Aniston pregnancies, as well as a wedding, pregnancy, and break-up for Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. (The pair is still together, unwed and without child.) Amusingly, a falsely reported Kim Kardashian pregnancy preceded the news that Kim has joined OK!‘s staff as a “Contributing Beauty Editor,” so we’ll have to see if this improves the quality of OK!‘s Kardashian coverage.


9% Cover Accuracy, 12% Overall Accuracy

With less than 10 percent of the stories appearing on its covers turning out to be true, Star tied for last place on our list. Although it had some successes—such as correctly reporting Eminem’s reconciliation with Kim Mathers and Tea Leoni’s reconciliation with David Duchovny—myriadStar stories turned out to be false, including at least 25 celebrity pregnancy takes and several stories about Tom Cruise and Kate Holmes breaking up.

…I honestly can’t stand ANY of these tabloids. I tend to pick up classier, magazine-like ones such as People.

The original article (which has some links for great related articles) can be found here:

Though not as popular as they once were, tabloids are still a prevalent industry in our society. We have a fascination with not only the rich and the famous but also just scandals in general. So just what draws us to them?

  • They are inexpensive.
  • They draw us in using opinion and emotion.
  • They invite the reader to apply judgement or derision.
  • They tell stories–some true others completely fictional.
  • They bring the rich, powerful, and famous down to our level.
  • They let the reader become immersed in a world with few real-life consequences.
  • On the surface, they disclose secrets and private information. Often an illusion but it makes us feel like “insiders” regardless.
  • Cover a broad range of interests.