Tabloids and Broadsheets


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Perhaps the last outpost is not the safest place for expressing anti-monarchist sentiments, but a reader’s query prompts an opportunity too good to miss. At the risk of a backlash from the league of Empire Loyalists, this column holds no brief for the one-time Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family, the erstwhile Battenburgers, the kilted Greek and their noisome brood.

Wordsworth is thus only too happy to oblige Mrs. Brits of Durban North, who writes for an explanation of “tabloid” newspapers described by Queen Elizabeth’s former Press secretary as “a cancer in the soft underbelly of the nation.”

The tabloids might make the Pommie royals sick, but strictly speaking (linguistically at least), they should have the opposite medicinal effect.

Tabloid was originally registered in 1884 as a pharmaceutical trade-mark, but developed into a general term for any medicine prepared and sold in compressed form.

From there, it was a short step to describing any condensed or concentrated product. Hence its application to a newspaper presenting the news in a concise and easily assimilable style.

Mrs. Brits also asks about “Broadsheet Papers” and how they differ from tabloids. The term is largely self-explanatory. Some newspapers (like the mercury) are large format and printed on “broadsheet”, unlike the tabloids which are smaller such as the Saturday mercury.

Broadsheets were originally large sheets of paper printed on one side only, carrying the same kind of scandal and sensation which now typify the worst of britain’s tabloids.

By contrast, current British broadsheets are “quality” papers such as the The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.

Mrs. Brits wraps up her journalistic investigation into investigative journalism with a query on the origin=s of “media” as a comprehensive term for publishing and broadcasting services.

The singular is “medium” in its sense of an intermediate agency, means, instrument or channel. A newspaper is a medium of mass communications so all such instruments such as magazines, radio, television etc. have come to be collectively described as the “media”

There are other media, such as painting media used by artists and growing media used by gardeners, but THE media invariable applies to the communications industry. No doubt the beleaguered House of Windsor feels more comfortable with the artistic and horticultural varieties.


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