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Tabloid journalism is a style of journalism that tends to emphasize topics such as sensational crime stories, astrology, gossip columns about the personal lives of celebrities and sports stars, and junk food news. Such journalism is commonly associated with tabloid sized newspapers like the National Enquirer, Globe, or The Sun and the former News of the World. Not all newspapers associated with such journalism are in tabloid size; for example, the format of Apple Daily is broadsheet, while the style is tabloid. The terms tabloids, supermarket tabloids, gutter press and rag refer to the journalistic approach of such newspapers rather than their size.
Often, tabloid newspaper allegations about the sexual practices, drug use, or private conduct of celebrities is borderline defamatory; in many cases, celebrities have successfully sued for libel, demonstrating that tabloid stories have defamed them. It is this sense of the word that led to some entertainment news programs to be called tabloid television.
An early pioneer of tabloid journalism was Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe (1865–1922), who amassed a large publishing empire of halfpenny papers by rescuing failing stolid papers and transforming them to reflect the popular taste, which yielded him enormous profits. Harmsworth used his tabloids to influence public opinion, for example, by helping to bring down the wartime government of Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith in the Shell Crisis of 1915.
In the United States, Canada and United Kingdom, "supermarket tabloids" are large, national versions of these tabloids, usually published weekly. They are named for their prominent placement along the checkout lines of supermarkets. Supermarket tabloids are particularly notorious for the over-the-top sensationalizing of stories, the facts of which can often be called into question. These tabloids—such as The Globe and The National Enquirer—often use aggressive and usually mean-spirited tactics to sell their issues. Unlike regular tabloid-format newspapers, supermarket tabloids are distributed through the magazine distribution channel, similarly to other weekly magazines and mass-market paperback books. Leading examples include The National Enquirer, Star, Weekly World News (now defunct), and the Sun.
Most major supermarket tabloids in the U.S. are published by American Media, Inc., including The National Enquirer, Star, The Globe, National Examiner, ¡Mira!, Sun, Radar and Weekly World News, which is now a Sun insert and web site.
The oldest tabloid known to date is the American "Daily News" in 1919. If it did not have any news, it would simply make it up and use a photograph staged by the newspaper staff, then use an editing technique called composograph. Broadway Brevities was a notorious New York tabloid founded in 1916 but had its heyday in the 1930s with a circulation of 50,000 for its mix of sexual sensationalism and gossip.
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Collectively called the "tabloid press", tabloid newspapers in Britain tend to be simply and sensationally written, and to give more prominence than broadsheets to celebrities, sports, crime stories and even hoaxes; they also less subtly take a political position (either left-wing or right-wing) on news stories, ridiculing politicians, demanding resignations and predicting election results. The term "red tops" refers to tabloids with red nameplates, such as The Sun, the Daily Star, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Record and the Daily Sport, and distinguishes them from the Daily Express and Daily Mail. Red top newspapers are usually simpler in writing style, dominated by pictures, and directed at the more sensational end of the market.
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- Martin Conboy (2006). Tabloid Britain: constructing a community through language. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-35553-7.
- Kevin Glynn (2000). Tabloid Culture: Trash Taste, Popular Power, and the Transformation of American Television. Duke University Press. ISBN 0822325500.
- Paula E. Morton (2009). Tabloid Valley: supermarket news and American culture. University Press of Florida. ISBN 978-0-8130-3364-8.
- Colin Sparks; John Tulloch (2000). Tabloid tales: global debates over media standards. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-8476-9572-0.
- Herman Wasserman (2010). Tabloid Journalism in South Africa: True Story!. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-22211-4.
- Barbie Zelizer, ed. (2009). The changing faces of journalism: tabloidization, technology and truthiness. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-77824-4.