Journalism Background Reading

* A lot of dumping of information, more for my safekeeping, archiving and reading. This is a lot to read if not just jump straight to the main post :

Good news everyone: You are a journalist. You have the media access and the means to put words out there. Armed with your network, followers, smart phones, cameras, you have a voice!  

These are just a list of articles I have been reading over the last few weeks and some extracts which I find useful in understanding tabloid and yellow journalism.

Journalism is gathering, processing, and dissemination of news and information related to the news to an audience. The word applies to both the method of inquiring for news and the literary style which is used to disseminate it.

The media that journalism uses vary diversely and include: content published via newspapers and magazines (print), television and radio (broadcast), and their digital media versions — news websites and applications.

Some forms include:

• Advocacy journalism – writing to advocate particular viewpoints or influence the opinions of the audience.

• Broadcast journalism – written or spoken journalism for radio or television.

• Drone journalism – use of drones to capture journalistic footage.[8]

• Gonzo journalism – first championed by Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalism is a “highly personal style of reporting”.[9]

• Investigative journalism: the use of investigation on a subject matter while uncovering news events.

• Photojournalism: the telling of a story through its images.

• Sensor journalism: the use of sensors to support journalistic inquiry.

• Tabloid journalism – writing that is light-hearted and entertaining.

• Yellow journalism (or sensationalism) – writing which emphasises exaggerated claims or rumours.

The recent rise of social media has resulted in arguments to reconsider journalism as a process rather than attributing it to particular news products. From this perspective, journalism is participatory, a process distributed among multiple authors and involving journalists as well as the socially mediating public. 

‘This is how it works in the new world of round-the-clock gossip, where even a B-list celebrity’s tangle with the law can be spun into easy money, feeding the public’s seemingly bottomless appetite for dirt about the famous.

A growing constellation of Web sites, magazines and television programs serve it up minute by minute, creating a river of cash for secrets of the stars, or near-stars. An analysis of advertising estimates from those outlets shows that the revenue stream now tops more than $3 billion annually, driving the gossip industry to ferret out salacious tidbits on a scale not seen since the California courts effectively shut down the scandal sheets of the 1950s.’

British Tabloid
The tabloid industry began in earnest in England and tends to emphasize topics such as sensational crime stories, astrology, gossip about the personal lives of celebrities and sports stars, and junk news. 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. Tabloid newspapers are sometimes pejoratively called the gutter press.

Celebrities don’t always sue because of the time, energy and money investment in countering all the salacious tabloid libel because they realize that they would be in court almost every day. The tabloids count on that fact to escape culpability and are unscathed by the occasional judgment against them which is miniscule compared to profits and is “expensed” on balance sheets. The profit margin trumps the occasional lawsuit. The end justifies the means given the bottom line: that financial statements show profit.

American Tabloid

It doesn’t matter if it’s true. If it’s not true, they can always print a retraction; but meanwhile the headlines scream scandal and millions of papers sold make millions of dollars. In the tabloid business there are reporters and photographers, sources and ‘breaking news.’ The game is to get a sensational story about a celebrity before your rival can break the story. It’s a world devoid of meticulous fact checking, scrutiny of sources or ethics. The credibility of the source doesn’t matter because the tabloids operate on the letting the cat out of the bag principle. It doesn’t matter if the story is true, what matters are headlines that scream attention. The retraction can come later and is guaranteed to not be front page news but buried in the back of the paper.

There appears to be no real conclusion to the dilemma presented by modern media, or is there? It seems clear that the media, journalism, and television may be entirely out of control in covering the goings on of leaders and celebrities in our culture.

We have seen evidence that this frenzy of voyeurism and the need to know all the gore or juicy details of someone else’s private life causes societal ills and does not benefit our children or our own humanity. Tabloid journalism kills people. Diana died in a car accident while being chased the multi-thousandth time by paparazzi. Michael Jackson was darkly exploited by the media for profit over years and was unjustly accused of unspeakable acts toward children in an extortion attempt, yet many still do not know he was innocent because his exoneration and the details were not widely reported. Journalists went for the sordid details of the accusations instead of the dismantling of its veracity through cross examination. The negative aspects of an event become the focus because that is what gets attention, that is what sells the product and keeps the gutter press in business

A Google spokeswoman said that in September the search giant widened the number of sources from which it drew the entries that appear in the “in the news” section of its search results page.

“They [tabloids] crusade and when you disagree, it can be scary,” BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith told me in an interview last year, adding tabloids’ main purpose has been to act as “effective vehicles for owners’ commercial interest.”

He added that as the tabloids declined, their populist positions have been taken up by online outlets like BuzzFeed, Mail Online, the Huffington Post and others.

Smith, who is a former tabloid reporter himself, said that he sees BuzzFeed as coming “closer to a broadsheet tradition,” but that he agreed that the rise of online news makes the notion of wielding a newspaper cover as a source of power seem antiquated.

One reason is that, while the Times eschews many of the cheap gimmicks used by Business Insider and other viral sites, it also has at times committed its own form of online ethical transgressions by failing to cite or link to other sources that surface a story (such linking is considered basic etiquette among online publications).

Blogs such as Gawker and Buzzfeed are notorious for a style known as clickbait: articles with sensationalist headlines used solely to generate per-click ad-revenue for their site. These articles are rampant on Gawker and Buzzfeed, where most of their revenue is generated through clickbait and advertorials.

Huffington Post are also guilty of these tactics, particularly clickbait which is becoming more and more prevalent on their website. It seems as though many media companies are now jumping on the clickbait bandwagon to increase their advertising revenue, and now a large number of blogs are inundated with clickbait and advertorials.

You can disagree with the print Daily Mail’s virulent opposition to unsanctioned Gypsy settlements, but it’s still original reporting guided by genuine values. The Mail Online, by contrast, is not immoral but amoral, driven less by politics than by profit motive. Original reporting, it has apparently decided, is an inefficient way to garner clicks.

The downside to this approach is that it’s not a good way to cultivate a loyal readership. But the new dynamics of Internet news have made this problem moot. Even if more readers make the Times their homepage—which is surely the case—the Mail can make up the difference via search and social-media traffic. Many American readers who don’t think they read the Mail Online probably do—just not on purpose. 

Shifting around those categories doesn’t change the fact that the Mail Online is on the fast track to profitability while the New York Times Co. just reported yet another disappointing quarter.* That’s not a surprise: Writing and editing original journalism requires a lot more resources than rephrasing other papers’ stories or repeating gossip without checking the facts. The question, then, is not which type of online newspaper fares best. It’s whether any genuine news site can make money online. If not, the Web will soon belong to photos of Elton John’s pampered pooch.

MailOnline—which has since changed its name to in order to “mak[e] deeper inroads … with ad firms on Madison Avenue,” according to the Wall Street Journal—has been widely hailed as a blueprint for the future of online journalism. It reaches hundreds of millions of readers, and it has hired former BuzzFeed COO Jon Steinberg to help turn those gargantuan traffic numbers into profit. Earlier this year, acquired U.S.-based site Elite Daily, the so-called “Voice of Generation Y.”

The eager paradigm-proclaimer Michael Wolff used his USA Today media column last August to praise the Mail’s business model as having succeeded where other, better-funded and more prestigious publications have failed. Under the headline “Daily Mail Solves Internet Paradox,” Wolff lauded the publication’s “180 million unique visitors a month” and suggested that if other publications want to survive the “digital migration” they should adopt a model similar to that of the Mail’s.

What Wolff failed to acknowledge: the Mail’s editorial model depends on little more than dishonesty, theft of copyrighted material, and sensationalism so absurd that it crosses into fabrication.

Yes, most outlets regularly aggregate other publications’ work in the quest for readership and material, and yes, papers throughout history have strived for the grabbiest headlines facts will allow. But what does goes beyond anything practiced by anything else calling itself a newspaper. In a little more than a year of working in the Mail’s New York newsroom, I saw basic journalism standards and ethics casually and routinely ignored. I saw other publications’ work lifted wholesale. I watched editors at the most highly trafficked English-language online newspaper in the world publish information they knew to be inaccurate.

During a typical 10-hour shift, I would catch four to seven articles this way. Unlike at other publications for which I’ve worked, writers weren’t tasked with finding their own stories or calling sources. We were simply given stories written by other publications and essentially told to rewrite them. And unlike at other publications where aggregation writers are encouraged to find a unique angle or to add some information missing from an original report, the way to make a story your own at the Mail is to pass off someone else’s work as your own.

The Mail made no attempt to publicly acknowledge that it had published the wrong person’s photo. Editors decided a disappearing act would be much better for business, so the Mail just removed the photos from the story as if the whole thing had never happened.

Other writers had turned down similar offers out of a similar sense of shame. After watching editors frequently change things I’d written without telling me or without checking whether the changes were accurate I decided I didn’t want my byline on my work. I was still willing to do the work; I had bills to pay. I would create content and let them do with it what they pleased.

And so for some 500 articles I hid behind the anonymous veil of the “Daily Mail Reporter” byline. Six times, my name did get attached to a story. One of these was under the headline “Private school teen ‘enlisted gang member friends to help beat and kill his father before emptying his bank account and going on a 2-day shopping spree.’”

Unsurprisingly, that’s not the headline I wrote when I filed the story; an editor had dreamed it up after I’d gone home for the day. It would have been a fine headline—if it had been true. 

The Mail simply removed the plagiarized article from its website as if it had never happened. The writer of this article, a freelancer, was never disciplined; he’s still churning out “aggregated” articles for the Mail.

May 2013 New York Times story about the Mail’s growth gave me additional confidence that I was joining a somewhat credible publication, and I started to get excited about the prospect of working for a news outlet with such enormous reach.

That excitement quickly faded when it became clear that the only thing about the Mail’s ethics that had changed was that it now attempted to disguise its plagiarism as aggregation. It was the same Mail, just bigger. 

Celebrities had to become products rather than individuals,” says Marlise. “I had to break down the righteous walls that had formed my spiritual edifice. This enticing new position was twisting my morals.”

Born and raised in a house of integrity, Marlise was now willing to lie and assume false identities to advance her career.  

“I kept telling myself, It’s just a job, right? This is not about moral convictions,” says Marlise.

Sneaking into Star Trek’s star private wedding as drunk guest, borrowing a dog to visit Jodie Foster’s vet at the same time, sending flowers as decoy to hospital when she gave birth…

“This job was the ultimate lure for an adrenaline junkie,” says Marlise. “For Globe, I was prepared to jeopardize my morals….and somehow justify it all through the use of my pen.”  

Eventually Marlise’s life of lies and deception took a toll on her emotionally. She started having doubts about what she was doing and realized that some of her stories were hurting real people. When a photo came in about Madonna gaining weight, Marlise was reluctant to write a story. She felt like the photo had been stretched which made it appear that Madonna had put on 20 pounds. Marlise was instructed to write the story, and she did.

Celebrity magazines and tabloids will also commission agencies to get certain pictures. If the editors at People wanted a shot of Denise Richards coming out of the hospital with a baby in her arms, they might offer photographers a few hundred dollars a day.

Most turn their snapshots over to a celebrity photo agency, which in turn sells them off to the highest bidder. (Some paparazzi do work independently or start their own agencies.) A typical deal gives 60 percent of the proceeds to the photographer and 40 percent to the middleman. If the photographer used information from the agency

Paparazzi work at the intersection of free speech and indifference to the norms of polite society. Anyone sufficiently famous is considered a “public figure” who in some ways waives the right to privacy by pursuing a public-facing career. This means paparazzi have the right to take a picture of a celebrity in public, which is why so many celebrity magazines are filled with pictures of famous people walking to their car or down the street.

In Spears’s case, one firm “logged over 40,000 man-hours watching Britney,” which paid to the tune of $6 million worth of photos, including one of the emotionally turbulent singer shaving off her hair.

Many paparazzi defend their invasive occupation by saying that it benefits celebrities’ careers. There’s truth to this. Managers and publicists regularly maintain relationships with paparazzi, tipping them off to a star’s schedule to maintain their client’s celebrity by keeping them in the public eye. Of course, the absence of such relationships does not deter the photographers. For famous figures, pursuit by the paparazzi is an occupational hazard that is greatly reduced but not eliminated by living outside Los Angeles, New York, and other cities where celebrities congregate.

In an interview, British actress Sienna Miller acknowledged that it is hard to sympathize with wealthy celebrities, but refuted the claim that she benefitted from the exposure: “My career suffered massively because I had a reputation for being a very tabloid person.” Since winning a harassment case against many of England’s largest paparazzi agencies, Miller is no longer followed by photographers. She won the judge over by showing footage she took of the paparazzi as “they routinely tried to cause accidents, swore at her and backed her into dark street corners.”

The profession has not gotten more professional. The same Times piece relates how L.A. paparazzi go by strange names “like the Fingerbreaker and Cheesecake.” Sienna Miller’s experience shows that the rhetoric of respecting celebrities is mostly fiction, and many paparazzi misogynistically refer to the practice of celebrities facilitating photos by the sexually suggestive phrase “giving it up.”

These freelancers work, however, in an environment dominated by a few paparazzi agencies that hire small armies of “shooters” or “paps.” The largest is X17, which according to Samuels in The Atlantic, pays around 70 shooters $800 to $3,000 a week and an occasional bonus. The shooters will never have a museum exhibition; most are low-income, often immigrants, who shoot with cheap cameras.

Today we’re seeing the beginning of a third stage in the paparazzi business, in which hired photographers are less necessary as smartphone cameras turn everyone, even the stars, into paparazzi. Many agencies now have online submission forms that allow anyone who bumps into someone famous and takes a picture to get paid for it. Especially for online content, many entertainment publications simply grab pictures taken of celebrities from social media, including pictures that famous people themselves post on Instagram. This is likely done illegally – whoever posts a photo on Instagram or Facebook retains the copyright – yet “stories” about Kim Kardashian’s latest activities pull from her Instagram, and mainstream press has taken from social media when an unknown individual is suddenly part of a major story.

As The Economist reports, the way that scandalous pictures can rocket around the Internet means that publications no longer find even exclusive photos nearly as valuable. One paparazzo informed the venerable paper, “The Internet has ruined it for everybody.”

How We See the Stars

With the advent of blogs, comments sections, and social media, the dissection of famous people’s lives became a pastime accessible to everyone, allowing people to move their gossip about celebrities from private conversations to the public sphere. Even if we’re not taking the pictures, we’re all paparazzi. Bashing and praising celebrities is nothing new, but now the criticism or praise is more of a flood. It is a novel feature of the media environment that actress Anne Hathaway is defined much more by the public’s hatred of her than by the Oscar she won for playing Fantine in Les Miserables. Every famous figure risks being pulled into a maelstrom of public opinion that alternatively idolizes them, seeks from them the familiarity of a friend, and revels in seeing them humiliated.

Do we really want the ranks of famous, influential people to be filled exclusively by individuals who are willing to put up with an increasing amount of negative press, harassment, and intrusion into their personal lives for the sake of huge piles of money?

"We were not there, we weren’t chasing them. But we do thrive on celebrities. We can only blame the paparazzi for so long. As long as we continue to watch and read those tabloid, we are just as guilt as any of them.”

Many others around the world have echoed the same thoughts, even those related to Princess Diana.

According to Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother, “Every proprietor and editor of every publication that have paid for intrusive and exploitative photographs of her has blood on his hands.”

The Current ‘Entertainment’ Affairs

So New Zealand prime time TV has just hit breaking point. And honestly, that means two things – it’s a critical situation AND it’s the sign that mainstream media is breaking away from tradition;  heading in one way and one way only. Mediaworks, one of the two major TV networks in the country, announced on Thursday last week that New Zealand’s only prime time investigative journalism show, Campbell Live, will be off the air in 6-8 weeks following a drawn out ‘review’. No longer will the weekday 7pm slot on any free-to-air NZ TV channel feature down to earth current affairs. Some of the nation didn’t blink an eye. The rest said (in a multitude of different terms) ‘oh shit’.

If you haven’t heard of John Campbell, the namesake of Campbell Live, this is him below! Also, watch this video here via the link from 3 News ( for more background. It’s from Mediaworks and credit’s got to be given to them; it aims to provide a pretty full view of the story behind Campbell’s departure.

Image Source

The cancellation of Campbell Live showcases a trend of media moving from current affairs to entertainment, creating shows that are often labelled as ‘infotainment’ [2]. I wanted to look at some international examples where a TV channel has moved from primetime current affairs to entertainment, and see how successful the change has been. Then, if I can, give some prediction of how well Mediaworks will benefit from their change in programming.

Let’s briefly take a look at two examples:

1. Australian TV, 1990s - Real Life on Channel 7 vs. The Current Affair on Channel 9

These shows were supposedly ‘current affairs’ shows, but realistically they were sensationalistic – your basic tabloid TV. Real Life screened on the Seven Network before being cut after two years. This turned into Today Tonight, which was similar but was cancelled in 2014 [3]. 
On the other side of the market, The Current Affair is still going on the Nine Network after 44 years (WOW!) but obviously it’s had its changes. It has copped criticism for presenting advertising as editorial content and being rather sensationalist. What could be better than a Ham Scam ? [3].

Image Source

And producers just don’t care. Apparently Real Life producer Gerald Stone said when people confronted him about the so called soft journalism, he said ‘I don’t give a shit’ and he was ‘cheerfully unconcerned’ about what people thought about him [3, p. 80]. Basically, things rely on ‘personality & conflict’ to producers – as long as you’ve got something like that in there AND you’re getting money, all is well. Advertising is the easiest way to get money - that’s why these shows are now practically rampant commercialism.
I just took a look on the A Current Affair website – first story was about a TV star that lost thousands in an investment [5]. That says it all.

2. UK’s ITV at Turn of 21st Century [6]

Image Source

ITV pushed their long-running  current affairs show ‘News at Ten’ out of their programming lineup in 1999, to allow for more drama and films. Then it came back in 2001, after a steady decline in ratings! The whole story is quite messy, they changed times and length every now and then, and now it’s back at 10pm.

What’s going to happen to TV3 7pm slot?
Well, this is difficult to figure but I wouldn’t be surprised if it their new plan doesn’t hold for too long. They’re trying to be innovative – they made the world’s first TV/Radio/Online breakfast show with Paul Henry (ratings aren’t great thus far) and they’re cutting the Sunday news hour in half for a current affairs show [7]. But is this going to get them the ratings they desire? They’re cutting down news for time-poor people with short attention spans, and in the end we don’t get learn much from it at all. It’s possible that TV3’s attempt to change with the times, viewers may get annoyed with the disruption and switch (but there’s not a lot to switch to on NZ TV).

So to put it another way, current affairs shows may very well keep going in a cyclic nature. By that I mean after one year they’ll change something because it’s not quite right, then they’ll change something else and then something else until it’s pretty damn messy. And then they’ll rebrand the show once again!

Why is this shift happening in the media?
Well, it’s been happening for years. Many have blamed the political economic deregulation of the 1980s for encouraging public broadcasting organisations to chase profits and ratings, rather than actually providing a service which debates matters that concern the public [8]. And the internet’s also had a part in the revolution. Although it’s done some good by opening up freedom of speech, it’s also increased our vanity and narcissism through the constant use of social media and news items which require very little attention (e.g. look at that gif, hahahaha). Think of Buzz Feed.

What can we do about it?
The first step is to voice our concerns on a public scale. People did this for Campbell Live, and it had far more media impact than the TVNZ change from Close Up to Seven Sharp between 2012-13, possibly because of the increase in the use of social media (and Campbell’s a down to earth guy). But ultimately that failed, so what’s the next step we can take? Well, simply just don’t watch it if you don’t like it. These days, we have the ability to receive news that we want to hear. We don’t have to be subjected to what the mainstream media say! And I mean that. Just because it’s a tradition, doesn’t mean we have to stick to it. If we move away from primetime TV, ratings will decrease and then TV executives will wonder where they’ve gone wrong. Look up the internet and stream something -  there are so many options! Use a search engine and look up something based on YOUR interests. What’s brilliant about the internet is that generally you only have to watch the things you’re interested in.

Having said all of that, I don’t know what the new 7pm TV3 show will be like. It could be good.  But I’m going to take a guess that it’s not going to be as challenging, hard-hitting or thought-provoking Campbell Live which is what we need. I think it’s going to make us feel all warm and fuzzy, leaving us susceptible to believe what we’re told. Making us feel good in the short term might make us feel worse in the long term, as we see we aren’t having any affect on what’s going on in the country. Hey media, think about that!

Why don’t Mediaworks realise there’s a clear gap in the market for Campbell Live. They shouldn’t try and be the same as Seven Sharp by providing new age infotainment – whatever that is. It doesn’t have to cater for the highest number of people. One lesson I learnt as a child is ‘it is quality, not quantity that is important.’ Why do we have to sacrifice quality of journalism for quantity of people and dollars?  

Do you agree/disagree/are you on the fence? Please comment! (Go to archive if you’re not there…


1. Mediaworks TV3 Coverage on End of Campbell Live -

2. Infotainment and the Change in Media (This also discusses some interesting US changes which I didn’t get the chance to mention.) -

3. Real Life & Australian Current Affairs Analysis -

4. A Current Affair Investigative Report by Australian Broadcast Authority -

5. A Current Affair’s Official Website -

6. Editorial on ITV Change in Programming -

7. 3 News Website with Information on Current Programming -

8. Analysis of Changes in NZ TV Current Affairs -

I really don’t think tumblr understands how terrible the Daily Mail is though; like they are one of the most right wing, sensationalist, bigoted papers on the British market.

This is the paper that ran the headline “Abortion hope after gay genes finding”, a paper that has won prizes for being scientifcally inaccurate, that is constantly having to pay damages for printing false stories about celebrities. This article by an ex-Mail writer describes their journalism as “dishonesty, theft of copyrighted material, and sensationalism so absurd that it crosses into fabrication.” 

Yet I see it being used as a source by people on tumblr all the time. I understand that most non-Brits probably don’t know how awful they are, but please, stop using them as a reference. Even in the cases where what they report is factually accurate, it will probably have a right wing slant that distorts those facts completely.

They are the Fox News of the UK. If you wouldn’t use Fox as a source, don’t use the Mail.


Iltatyttö jää historiaan, kiitos Kari Pekoselle että sain olla osana sitä! 

Iltatyttö shoots are going to remain in history, thank you Kari Pekonen that I got to be part of it! <3

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