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The trend: Stupidity,
The cause: A brutal culture industry thriving on immorality and the stupefaction of our people.

C Write Mills said the power of the media lies “not in its ability to tell the people what to think, but in its ability to tell people what to think about”. The type of information people are exposed to dictates the mindset of a society. In today’s information age, where people are becoming more and more dependant on various forms of media both for entertainment and to feed the lust for information, cure their ADD…
The media expose people to a vast diversity of cultures, ideas, lifestyles, fashions and trends that ultimately leave society a more colourful place to live. But what sort of trends are spawn when the information fed to the people contradicts the only thing that stops man from becoming a machine – morality.

Sex sells, and the more bizarre a story, the more likely it is to make front page. No longer do the majority select their publications according to educational or social values, entertainment compiled by the hands of a lazy journalists is all people demand from a tabloid.

Sad sensationalism, sultry second grade gore and a dependency on advertising for revenue are but a few of the new medias’ flaws.

Tabloidisation can be defined as an involving shift in priorities within a given medium away from news and information towards an increasing emphasis on entertainment. More simply though it is the process in which the media pays more attention to soft news at the expense of coverage of public affairs. It’s felt that the practical basis of journalism is slipping away. “The high standards of yester year are being undermined by sensationalism, prurience, triviality, malice and plain, simple credulity.” (Sparks, 200, p.1)

In South Africa the first tabloid appeared in the form of the “Daily Sun” which was launched by Deon du Plesis in 2001. He claims that he spotted a niche in the market and “took a chance at exploiting it” The niche he saw was in the minds of the South African people who wouldn’t be able to critically analyse the paper’s content. He then figured that by adding a picture of a nude woman in each publication and using a “cheaper is better” campaign, he released his plot into the predominantly poor communities of South Africa.

The Daily Sun has the literacy level of a grade 3, a shockingly low standard to unleash upon a nation of people still healing the wounds left by Bantu Education. As the largest selling daily in the country, the Daily Sun has a readership of over 440 000 people. That means over 440 000 South Africans are exposed to trivial, credulous content on a daily basis. And other publications are following fast. “The Sowetan” has recently adopted the format and according to ABC, statistics sales are rapidly rising.

News in the traditional broadsheet, 8 o’clock, Politics, Sport and Crime sense is being done away with, and advertisement priorities are the order of the day. Tabloids are dumbing down our population. In South Africa, like most other countries, newspaper readership is decreasing. This is resulting in publications having to find other ways of maintaining their readerships, and thus staying alive. Amongst the changes we’ve seen an increase in the use of bold attention grabbing fonts and application of advertising techniques like branding and catch phrasing help to sell more papers. Note the recent move towards “tabloidisation” in the format of publications like the Citizen and The Sowetan.


The tabloids are just an illustration of what’s become of most mainstream media and it’s content, and with the constant ever rising increase in viewerships, readerships and listenerships this means more and more people are being exposed to sensational media and its advertisers.

It all made sense when The London and New York Times adopted the tabloid format. Besides using the most prominent of advertising tactics to boost their sales, the change to tabloid gave journalists a chance to express themselves creatively and the population soaks up “news” in an entertaining format. The most unique thing happening during this change is the rise of uninformed, factually substantial content. Most quotes are guesses by witnesses and government officials with imaginations as vast as the journalists who cut & paste these stories together.

The most frightening thing is that the other forms of traditionally recognised “news media” are following suite, and this has resulted in a drastic lowering in the standards of both commercial and government television, magazine and radio content.

The media in all it’s forms has become the dictator of popular culture, which includes subliminally setting the norms and values of society. With the lowering in standards of content, the promotion of pornography, Iconography and the constant hammering sales techniques used by advertisers – It’s not surprising that the quest for new intellectual knowledge in the youth of today is dissipating, and that promiscuity, rape and ever omnipresent threat of intellectual degeneration within our society looms.

Words © Thomas W. Poole
Images © Henk Esterhuizen