Muckrakers… They Are Not; Online Tabloids Are Just Muck

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As promised: The Scourge of the Internet- Online Tabloids

Internet journalism, even for sites that represent reputable print versions like the New York Times or The Washington Post, focus more on getting information out there fast than on the fact-checking that used to be imperative.  The internet means everyone immediately has access to information about events when it happens, so papers have to be on the ball about reporting it too.  However, being quick means that there isn’t time to ensure that the facts are entirely accurate.  Although it might also be attributed to a little old age griping, if you ask an elderly person about the quality of newspapers today, they’ll tell you that even in print, there are far more spelling errors, misleading headlines, and completely mistaken facts than there used to be.

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Even after saying all this about legitimate newspaper websites, online tabloids are worse.  It’s not even clear whether these sites are technically tabloids, but considering the sloppiness and obvious disregard for truth or reality, they may as well be classified that way.  Print tabloids at least have the decency to look cheap and give you a bit of warning about the quality of what you’ll find inside.  Websites are relatively easy and cheap to make, meaning it’s easy to find yourself on what seems like the site of an upstanding institution when you’re really just reading the Weekly World News.

Headlines

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The first thing we’ll talk about, and coincidentally, the first thing you’ll see when it comes to online tabloids, is the headline.  Headlines are supposed to be an exercise in relevance.  They should be clear, concise, and relevant to the story.  Instead, online tabloids particularly delight in a specific form of trolling wherein they deliberately create misleading headlines.  Any publication is aiming for readership and the best way to draw people in is to get their attention with an outrageous headline.  A majority of the time, the statements and implications of these headers is either completely irrelevant to the story inside or otherwise unfounded.

A rather tame example, but still illustrative, is this headline today from RTE: “Scherzinger wants a cut of One Direction fortune”.  This makes it sound as if Nicole Scherzinger is demanding money from the international boyband.  If you read the articles related, you’ll soon find the actual quote in the Irish Independent: “Can you guys please send me a box of One Direction goodies? Somebody help me out here. Not only do I not get a cut, but now I’m buying bags for my nieces, with the boys’ faces on it. I was like, ‘What?’… Where’s my cut? Seriously? I’m a giver, what can I say? I gave the world One Direction.”   In context, she was clearly just discussing the irony of her involvement in the formation of the band and how far they’ve come since.

Sources

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Where exactly are the online tabloids getting their news?  It’s a good question and pretty much an unanswered one.  Tabloids tend not to quote anything that can be considered a reliable source, and there are times where it becomes pretty clear that a site is reporting rumors straight off internet sites populated by fans like Tumblr.  When it comes to reporting the relationships of idols, it would be quicker to just assume that any person a celebrity is spotted with is actually his or her new squeeze.  That’s all you’ll find if you read the news online in any case.  Some celebrities would have to be dating 5-10 people at a time if all the reports were true.

The best example  of blatant source abuse is when the popular British TV series “Sherlock” ended it’s third season in January 2014 and speculation began on when the next season would be released.  The Metro and MailOnline (dailymail) both cited the Sun as the source for a report that an unnamed BBC insider had hinted the series could have a Christmas special that year.  This turned out to be premature, if not an utter falsehood, considering a possible 2015 Christmas special was finally officially announced months later.  Following the news at the time, this was an even more ridiculous mess as there was actually a chain of online tabloids reporting the same thing, each citing a different tabloid that eventually led back to the Sun.

“Sources”

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If you see the phrases “industry insider” or “source close to <insert celebrity>”, you may as well desalinate the entire ocean for salt to take the news with.  These “sources” are never confirmed and considering that there is very little risk online tabloids will get into legal trouble over it, are likely made up entirely.  Although libel and character defamation are against the law, there are plenty of loopholes, and considering the landslide of tabloids reporting half-truths and blatant fabrications, trying to sue them all would be a monumental task for any idol or other celebrity.

Unfortunately, this isn’t even the end of it.  When it comes to sources, relevance should be key, but it’s often not.  It’s not easy to tell when a source is irrelevant either.  Sometimes a celebrity will be asked to speak their opinion on another celebrity.  If those celebrities are friends or know each other well, this makes sense, but just because someone is a celebrity doesn’t mean his or her opinion is any more informed than a random person’s on the street.  There was also an instance recently where the Mirror interviewed the biological father of a pop idol over some alleged misbehavior.  Funny thing is, the biological father had no perspective on the matter considering he hadn’t been involved in the idol’s life since the idol was a baby.  That makes the entire story irrelevant and a low blow to boot.

Frenemies

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This isn’t as common a sight with online tabloids, but there are very distinct instances where a “reporter” will act as though sympathetic to an artist in the text of the article, but if read closely, the piece is actually a bash-fest.  These writers will arrange and misconstrue facts in such a way to intentionally make the celebrity appear in the wrong or of questionable character.  The case of the Mirror using an idol’s estranged biological father is again an example.  The tone of the article is almost sweet, as if a father is legitimately concerned and caring for his child.  Unless a reader already knew about his relationship with the idol, it would be very easy to swallow the story down and be left feeling that the idol is a wild child unconcerned if family and acquaintances are worried sick.

Recommended

While we haven’t conducted any sort of search around the internet for reputable or at least bearable sources of boyband or girlband news, we’d like to share a few personal recommendations.

  • Sugarscape– This is a particularly kind site for British and American pop news.  They act more like fans than reporters and always point out that controversial news especially should be taken with a grain or bucket of salt.
  • Unreality TV– This site can have the problem of reporting news they got off the internet as if it’s fact, but they don’t tend to bash at least.  It’s like a slightly less fan-ish version of Sugarscape.
  • E! News– We haven’t checked this out as much, but it seems to be much more professional and also refrains from putting forth opinions on the news and celebrities being reported on.
  • jpopasia– The articles on this site are more crowd-sourced, but it’s a good way to keep abreast of new releases in J-pop and K-pop.
  • allkpop and KpopStarz– These are both focused solely on K-pop news and are the biggest sites for it on the internet (according to experience and a google search anyway).

 

 

Return2Whelp, that’s another week of highly-opinionated, simmering anger.  We’ll lighten things up next week with a fun topic, promise.  Pinky promise even.  Just stick around!

 

(*image found at http://20px.com/blog/2014/06/06/why-we-still-need-print-newspapers/#.U7yobfldU-U)

(**image found at http://malialitman.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/funny-headlines-from-the-national-enquirer/)

(***image found at http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2012/03/05/how-to-write-a-headline-that-packs-a-punch/)

(****image of quote from the Harry Potter series taken from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0330373/quotes)

(*****image found at http://www.fantasticsupermarket.com/wooden-salt-bucket.html

(******image found at http://www.quoteswarehouse.com/quotes/friendship-quotes/fake-friends-quotes/)

We do not claim any of the cited images as our own and would appreciate notice if the owners would like them removed.  Thank you!

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