[This series of blogs for News and Current Affairs Theory has focused more on a single company’s coverage of a story on two different mediums. This blog is still looking at two different mediums, but regards two different companies as well.]
By the nature of her celebrity, Kate Middleton is a name known all over the world. She is the classy, beautiful Duchess of Cambridge, married to Prince William who is in line for the throne. This is why it was a huge deal when her name was found on a list of people whose phones were hacked by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in collaboration with the no longer existing, News of the World.
Various news networks covered this story on various mediums. The Guardian is a serious newspaper based out of the UK. In Touch is a tabloid magazine publish in the US and distributed to Canada. I specifically want to look at the differences in coverage between The Guardian’s Nov. 12th story about Kate published on their official website and In Touch’s story published in their Dec. 2nd, 2013 issue of the magazine. (Pictures of the story are seen here)
Before you even start reading the content, the first obvious difference between the two articles is the visual representation. The Guardian is a professional newspaper, so their website extension has to be equally as professional. Though you can do anything with a website and add any form of multimedia, they chose to do a simple text article with one picture of Kate smiling innocently. The picture in The Guardian’s website article takes up about 20% of the entire article’s real-estate.
In Touch’s layout is quite different. They first promote the story on the cover of the magazine with a picture of a concerned looking Kate. The actual article’s layout is primarily focused on the visuals. There is a huge picture of Kate that is virtually unrelated to the article besides the fact that the story is about her. In all fairness, the same could be said for The Guardian’s photo. The images and titles in the In Touch article take up about 80% of the real-estate while the actual content is squeezed into the bottom left of the page. Clearly there is more focus on the aesthetics for the In Touch article and less on the content while the opposite is true for The Guardian’s story.
Another difference between the tabloid story and the newspaper article is In Touch’s use of the shock factor to draw people in to read. While this can also be related to the the visual layout, they take it
a step five steps further than the professional newspaper did.
Right on the cover, the tabloid magazine uses the caption “Palace Panic: Who’s spying on Kate?” Word choice was very important here. “Panic” and “spying” are two words that would surely grab the attention of readers. Spies are sensationalized in our media as the 007 type and if they are doing something to send the whole palace into a panic, it must be important. It is also interesting to note that they used “Who’s” instead of who is or who was spying on Kate. This gives the impression that the spying is still happening right now even though the article is an update on a case originally starting in 2005.
The actual In Touch article itself is labelled “OMG” and “Shock of the Week” before you even get to the headline of the story. Naturally, one might wonder why is this so shocking and continue to read on. The headline for the article reads, “Kate targeted by phone hackers.” This headline also adds to the shock factor because it again makes it seem like people are currently trying to hurt good, sweet, nicely dressed Kate. Readers would want to know why.
This is in stark contrast to The Guardian’s headline for the story, which reads “Phone hacking scandal: Kate Middleton’s name found on Glenn Mulcaire’s list.” This headline is more detailed as to what the actual article is about – the new development in the story – whereas the tabloid wants to scandalize it by bringing up the initial issue. The Guardian article also assumes that the reader has previous knowledge of the story, or they wouldn’t know who Glenn Mulcaire is. In Touch uses the shock factor to bring people in while The Guardian is about telling the unembellished facts.
The final main difference between the tabloid’s story and the newspaper’s website story is in the actual story facts themselves. The Guardian’s story focuses more on the hard facts of the trial and how the list was obtained and disseminated. They also find it important to list and describe who the other people were on the list and what they did, so that the reader has the full picture.
The tabloid on the other hand focuses solely on Kate Middleton and feels it’s important to mention her age and the fact that she is a new mom as if they are important to the phone hacking story. Unlike the newspaper that focuses on the trial facts, the tabloid actually focuses on the reaction from Prince William. They mention that he is “livid” and that they are going to great lengths to ensure privacy moving forward. This really shows the difference between In Touch the tabloid and The Guardian the newspaper. In Touch is concerned with the celebrities of the story – Kate Middleton and her knight in shining armour, Prince William – while a newspaper is informing the public.
The tabloid is often looked down on in the news world, but Marshall McLuhan said the medium is the message and keeping this in mind, it becomes acceptable for the tabloid to do what it does. If people want the serious facts of the phone hacking story, they can go to the newspaper medium and find them there. If people want the digested version with more of a focus on the people they know, they can go to the tabloid. This is not necessarily bad. It sort of fits in with our study of cubism in that it takes the story and its subjects and looks at it from different angles. We can find the detail of the list and we can know what Prince William thinks if we want it.
I myself am more of a newspaper person, but how about you? Are you a tabloid junky or a newspaper fanatic? Answer the poll below!