Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In defence of the British tabloid

Who would have thought that I would write one day a post with such a title ?

I have been living two years in Washington and during several cumulative hours spent queuing at supermarkets cashiers, I have had time to form an opinion about the local tabloids. Despite my deep hatred for their British counterparts, I have to admit that comparing them to the American ones is a bit like comparing P. G. Wodehouse to Danielle Steel or, and this will lead me to the next point, Bach to Stockhausen. The very strict libel laws in Britain mean that a tabloid needs to exercise great care in balancing a sensationalist message that might hint at outrageous things, with the need of not saying things which are actually untrue. In America, where one can say more or less whatever one wishes, we learned that Prince William forbade his father from inviting the latter's gay lover to the royal wedding. Neither publication appeals to me but at least I admire the skill required to publish a tabloid in Britain. (And I am not talking about phone hacking.)

I cannot recall one in particular at the moment but one has also to admit that some of the puns in tabloid headlines are quite clever.

As the Economist keeps reminding readers, in Britain journalism is a trade not a profession which means that there is a less status/snobbery associated with it. Contrary to what an outsider might think I believe that in a journalist's resume an early stint at a tabloid not only is not a handicap but it is probably a strength.

Having said that I am glad they are getting a little rap on the knuckles right now.