PROJECT: Tabloidization in the UK newspapers 1970–2010

Picture: Newspapers B&W by Jon S, license CC BY 2.0, edited

Julia Lefkowitz is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.  Currently she is writing a doctoral thesis on the concept of ‘tabloidization’ as a function of the rise of new ICTs and adjunct institutional and public sphere shifts.

Influence of tabloids on quality newspapers

The thesis uses linguistic methods to study the language of tabloid and ‘quality’ British newspapers from 1970 to 2010. Lefkowitz’s objective is to verify whether or not ‘tabloidization’ has occurred during the years, and to depict the ways and degrees to which it has done so.

According to Lefkowitz, tabloidization is often used intuitively to describe the development of news production, rather than on the basis of empirical findings. Nostalgia is often involved, and tabloidization is used to describe how things were better “in the good old days”.

Lefkowitz gives an example of this related to citizen journalism:

“Many claims equate the ascension of citizen journalism – enabled by the rise of the Internet and online media platforms – with the demise of journalistic standards. However, numerous virtues of citizen journalism – such as journalistic independence, for example – have also been identified. So what if ‘quality’ journalism’ wasn’t actually better back in the day? We don’t actually have much in the way of proof that it was”, she states.

Language and journalistic values

The thesis applies both quantitative and qualitative linguistic methods. The latter is used to refine the former and examine parts of speech that cannot be analysed through quantitative means, such as agency attribution. Lefkowitz sees that linguistic methods are particularly well-suited to journalism research:

“Language is a constitutive element of journalism and of the public sphere that it is ideally supposed to reinforce. Furthermore, I am unaware of any studies wherein quantitative and qualitative linguistic methods are connected to an engaged discussion of (multiple) journalistic values”, she states.

Lefkowitz’s general research interests include shifting journalistic values focusing on any era, the rise of new ICTs, recent changes in the public sphere, notions and changing dynamics of popular culture, and journalism and language, particular in the British, US, and French contexts. Her article “Tabloidization” or Dual-Convergence – Quoted speech in tabloid and “quality” British newspapers 1970–2010 was recently published in Journalism Studies.

Julia Lefkowitz - Photo
Julia Lefkowitz is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford.

You can find Lefkowitz’s profiles on ResearchGate, or Twitter.

Featured image: Newspapers B&W by Jon S, license CC BY 2.0

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