Tabloid Journalism: where imagination soars

Remember when Time Magazine printed a darkened photo of OJ Simpson on the cover? In 1994, two photos of OJ Simpson appeared on two magazines, Time and Newsweek. The photos should have been identical. However, Time Magazine’s photo illustrated a significantly darker and more threatening OJ than Newsweekly’s unfiltered photo. Time’s photo – a doctored version of a photograph made by the Los Angeles Police Department – was criticized by nearly every media outlet for exercising poor editorial judgment and racism. By printing a photo that was perceivably more sinister, Time Magazine was shifting public opinion. Whether that was their intention or not, their actions were considered unethical.

Time Magazine has been around for decades, reporting on hard-hitting topics, and therefore, is held to higher ethical standard than say, In Touch Weekly, which circulates entertainment news.

In Touch Weekly and other tabloids spread gossip. As is the case with gossip, it’s difficult to pin down sources in order to prove that the information is accurate. To that end, if the information doesn’t stand on solid ground, why are the tabloids printing the information? Moreover, why are publishers blatantly lying, and doctoring photos based on shallow assumptions? Last week, In Touch Weekly ran a cover photo of former Olympian, Bruce Jenner, in full makeup, with the headline: “Bruce’s Story: My Life As A Woman”. The article discussed Jenner’s transition from living as a man to realizing he is a woman. It didn’t take long before it came to light that the pictures and cover story were lies. It seems Jenner’s face was superimposed on British actress, Stephanie Beacham’s photo. As of right now, there is absolutely nothing indicating that Bruce Jenner is planning on undergoing a sex change. To that end, for In Touch to create their own simulation of Jenner as a woman, and try to pass it off as a real photo, based on shallow speculation, was an extremely poor editorial decision.

In 2010 Gawker ran a study testing the accuracy of multiple tabloids, in search of the most trustworthy. In Touch’s overall accuracy was 21%, beating Ok! and Stars, and losing to Us Weekly and Life&Style. When a tabloid’s credibility is already low, is it worth getting upset over that tabloid’s inaccuracies? In 2013, In Touch Weekly had one of the top five readerships by single-copy sales, which is likely due to their attention-grabbing headlines, featured stories, and pictures.

According to celebrities, gay rights activists, and social media postings, In Touch has crossed the line, reported The Inquisiter. Russell Brand posted a video on his YouTube channel, “The Trews”, expressing his disgust with the responses from entertainment media outlets like TMZ. He posted multiple clips, one of which featured TMZ staff members meticulously analyzing Jenner’s entire appearance from his clean fingernails to his long ombre hair. Brand is concerned with this issue as an act of bullying. After all, transgenders have been an object of ridicule, and the celebrity gossip vultures seem to be having a field day when given the slightest indication that the former Olympian who conquered the decathlon would go through such a procedure.

However, the rumor exploding to such an extreme is entirely due to In Touch Weekly’s fake photos. Furthermore, their actions were certainly unethical by any journalistic standard, but obviously not by any tabloid journalistic standard. So why is that okay? Will there ever be a tabloid that is capable of presenting the truth, or at the very least, holding on to their stories until there’s more supportive evidence? Will this constant lying and failure to fact check ever impact these tabloids? Or will they forever be associated with lies?


In Defense of the Singletons: why the Rabbit isn’t making you happy

In the age of digital media, biased and baseless editorials are as common as the social media platforms that users share them on.

Semi-recently, an article popped up in my Facebook newsfeed, entitled: “Cuddlers, Rejoice! Science Proves That Sleeping With Someone Else Is Good For Your Health”. At first, I disregarded the misuse of the word “prove”, chalking it up to a desperate attempt to drive up their web traffic (I was right). Reading on, it wasn’t the findings, but rather the misrepresentation of information that made my jaw drop. Overall, it was the senselessly nasty and insulting tone of the article that infuriated me, and prompted me to write this blog – to defend my singletons.

The article “presented” the collective research that Andrea Petersen had previously presented in The Wall Street Journal. Please note that science doesn’t definitively prove anything; it finds evidence to support a theory. Phrases like, “would suggest”, are frequent in Petersen’s paper, as they should be. The opposite is true for its ditzier step-sister, which opens alerting single women that, “there really is some science as to why your sorry, single self is going to bed at night alone and waking up miserable…We’re probably not the first people to tell you this – and don’t get all offended when we do – but you need to find a partner”. Low blows like, “And if you’re still single, there’s another reason to feel worse about yourself (no, it’s not about skipping a gym day)” are peppered throughout the (shockingly) non-Op-Ed piece (it was listed under Women’s Health!). The closing line reads, ”Basically, science is telling us something we already knew: One really is the loneliest number”.

If the goal of this article was to fabricate scientific research, and push a once confident single woman into insecurity – job well done. If the objective was to present accurate research in a short, comprehensible summary – well, it was certainly short and easy to read. In an attempt to be funny and cute, the author came off as extremely ignorant. As a journalist, her job was to present research that found that “couples may get health benefits from sleeping in the same bed”. Instead, she shames single women for their lifestyles, ignoring the fact that single women are not a cult or an entity – each woman is an individual, and therefore has her own reasons for being single.

The assumption that everyone should be looking for a relationship is simply outrageous and potentially harmful. A woman needs to have the integrity to wait for a partner who is respectful and satisfying. This piece not only ignores that, but also encourages women to find someone just to keep loneliness at bay. It tells women to “hold onto their man” or risk being “lonely, cranky, and tired.” It’s that kind of juvenile advice that drives women in unhappy, maybe even physically or verbally abusive relationships to stick around because apparently being single for even a month is worse than a black eye.

I understand that ethical journalism is simply obsolete in certain publications, so I guess I shouldn’t that this particular publication threw caution to the wind when it came to unbiased reporting. But as a woman, stick up for your gender. Just because studies have found that women who sleep in the same bed with someone every night were happier, doesn’t mean the others are “miserable”, and if they are, I don’t think the answer is to sleep with whatever Joe they see.

American Horror Story: (Insert zany guesses here)

American Horror Story is one of my favorite shows. Ryan Murphy has a way of making the macabre so beautiful via concepts, set design, and sharp dialogue. The anthology, which up until the fourth season appeared episodic, is connected by way of characters (Pepper – a pinhead who starred in the Freak Show, but after her companion, Salty, died, she moved in with her sister (Maye Winaham) who shipped her to Asylum) .  Give a possy to Ryan Murphy and his team if they pull this off – I’m not saying they won’t, but if I’m not saying “Ohh!” by the end, I’m going to be extremely disappointed.

Now, as Freak Show comes to an end, the fun begins – time to guess what next season is going to be. I love and hate running Google searches for viewer ideas. I love it because oftentimes people suggest theories that actually seem possible. I hate it because sometimes I wonder how anyone who actually watches the show could suggest something like, Summer Camp or Hotel. I’m assuming the latter was suggested by AHS Murder House enthusiasts (nothing against that season, it was a great start).The Hotel plot theory led off with, “Um, The Shining?”, which was my cue to stop reading. The Shining is an incredible story, but based on the plot and overall structure of season 2-4, I don’t see AHS writers working directly off that plot. I think I’ve noticed AHS pulling ideas from Stanley Kubrick more often than Stephen King. Quite a few scenes in Coven reminded me of The Shining, and I think that Ryan Murphy has a slightly different perspective on monsters than Stephen King – King’s characters seems to fear the monster and Murphy seems to empathize with the “monster”. Still, both fear virtuosos pen brilliant characters.

Regardless, hats off to those speculating what the next season would be because I’ve got nothing.

Speaking of hats, apparently one of the easter eggs planted in Freak Show was a top hat on Emma Roberts’s cup in the second episode. I’ll be honest, early on, I thought season 5 would include aliens, but I now realize that wasn’t the best assumption (based on Pepper who, in Asylum, was possessed by aliens and I felt that, that particular storyline was never resolved). However, it seems that the U.S. Army’s 1953 “Operation Top Hat” exercise could be a more likely assumption. It was speculated early on, but Ryan Murphy has said that no one has guessed it. Though, Ryan Murphy also said season 4 wouldn’t be set at a carnival,  and we ended up with Freak Show, and prior to the season premier, the webosphere was riddled with phony promos and posters, so I wouldn’t blame the guy for not wanting to drop the plot prematurely, just think of the massacre.

We’ll find out soon enough, but I think it will be good regardless. Though, it will be amazing if one strong female lead sticks around. Jessica Lange, if you’re reading this, have mercy on our souls and please don’t leave us. Season 5 needs you.