A stroll by the checkout lane in any average American supermarket reveals a depository of sensationalist tabloids.
Although the modern-era tabloids date back to the American Daily News in 1919, many people might be surprised to find that the sensationalism-driven news model was found as far back as the late 19th century with yellow journalism.
Frank Luther Mott, in his 1941 book American Journalism, says that yellow journalism has all of the following characteristics:
- Large-print headlines that was often intended to scare readers.
- Heightened use of illustrations to accompany stories.
- Misinformation, usually by using misleading headlines, false ‘experts’ claiming misinformation is correct, and interviews that never happened.
- Interest in the ‘little guy’s fight with the establishment.
Although most of the above characteristics apply to modern-day tabloids, they do differ in the following ways:
- Modern tabloids primarily focus on celebrity stories, with gossip, and bizarre news both being a close second in terms of coverage.
- Tabloids are distributed with magazines, instead of with newspapers.
- Yellow journalism newspapers carried Sunday inserts, complete with full-color comics like today’s newspapers. Tabloids do not carry these items.