Bodansky: ‘Tabloid journalism is like sugar’
A leading PR practitioner has likened tabloid journalism to sugar, and suggested there needs to be measures put in place to curb people’s usage of the medium.
Michael Bodansky, press consultant at Freud Communications pointed to the dominance of tabloid journalism and in particular the rise of the Daily Mail’s online arm, and questioned how it was impacting the way people viewed the world.
“Tabloid journalism is like sugar – we don’t know how much were consuming, most of us probably consume too much, we’re surrounded by it and it tastes great,” he said in a session called ‘Tabloid Takeover: How the Daily Mail Won’ at SXSW.
He likened the Daily Mail’s model to a toffee apple – combining the “nutritious” hard news stories with the tasty, celebrity-based yarns.
“If someone said they eat their five fruit and veg a day, and then you find it’s all wrapped in toffee, you’d say they are getting the benefits of the vegetables, but all the harm of the toffee,” he added.
Bodansky said tabloid-style journalism, pulling on the most extreme cases in society for entertainment, was creating a “disparity” people think much worse of the rest of the community than they necessarily behave.
He pointed to an idea being floated in the UK by the government of a sugar tax – making people pay a premium for sugary products, and asked whether that would limit people’s usage of tabloid over ‘quality’ news sites.
He said: “So what can we do? Maybe there’s a tax on tabloid journalism? So you limit people’s consumption. You couldn’t possibly do such a thing, right?
“Well, in the UK they’re already suggesting a tax on sugar, it’s about trying to limit the size of the servings.
“Yes people should be able to choose how much sugar they consume, but at the same time people do make the wrong decisions and the government has to step in and say ‘enough is enough’. Maybe you could put a tax on people’s consumption of something.”
He pointed to the Leveson inquiry, triggered after the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, as one way the government has curbed the “excesses” of the tabloid press in the UK, setting a ‘precedent” for the government to step in.
After the session he told Mumbrella the answer may lie in advertisers rewarding better content with higher premiums.
Asked about the role PR companies have played in the rise of tabloid journalism and spreading celebrity culture he admitted some stories “do originate in PR”.
But he added: “I think there’s been a shift in PR in the last 10 years where traditional PR is sending out press releases and more modern PR agencies have a social and digital element, they do event organising and invite journalists to events to meet clients.
“It’s not just a churning machine that turns constantly; more modern PR makes use of social and digital and is possibly less about the press and more about online opinion.”
Alex Hayes in Austin