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Tabloid Journalism in South Africa

True Story!

Herman Wasserman

Publication Year: 2010

Less than a decade after the advent of democracy in South Africa, tabloid newspapers have taken the country by storm. One of these papers -- the Daily Sun -- is now the largest in the country, but it has generated controversy for its perceived lack of respect for privacy, brazen sexual content, and unrestrained truth-stretching. Herman Wasserman examines the success of tabloid journalism in South Africa at a time when global print media are in decline. He considers the social significance of the tabloids and how they play a role in integrating readers and their daily struggles with the political and social sphere of the new democracy. Wasserman shows how these papers have found an important niche in popular and civic culture largely ignored by the mainstream media and formal political channels.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: African Expressive Cultures

Title Page

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

At the entrance to the Daily Sun’s offices in Johannesburg, a mannequin is displayed reading a copy of the newspaper. This is the “man in the blue overalls” that the paper’s publisher says forms the core of the paper’s readership, and that the paper remains fiercely loyal to, even as it is accused of journalistic sins like sensationalism, “dumbing down,” sexism, and xenophobia. ...

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pp. xv-xvi

I owe the initial spark of an idea for this book to a teatime conversation I had with Professor Larry Strelitz during a colloquium at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, in 2005. Larry’s views on the cultural significance of tabloid media in the post-apartheid public sphere went against the grain of the dominant discourse at the time, namely a hysterical condemnation of tabloids for ...

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1. Shock! Horror! Scandal! Th e Tabloid Controversy and Journalism Studies in Post- Apartheid South Africa

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pp. 1-13

In many regions of the world, the death of newspapers is expected soon. One critic (Meyer 2004) famously predicted that the last newspaper will be read and recycled in April 2040. Amid this panic about the future of printed news, a newspaper revolution has taken place in South Africa. The newspaper market in that country has been conquered convincingly by the entry of the new tabloid newspapers that have turned the local media landscape ...

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2. Attack of the Killer Newspapers! Tabloids Arrive in South Africa

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pp. 14-42

The term “tabloid” can refer to the format as well as the content of a newspaper. Etymologically, the word “tabloid” refers to a chemical tablet, initially a term registered as a trademark in the 1800s (Franklin et al. 2005, 258). In newspaper terms, “tabloid” is identified with a smaller size of paper compared to broadsheets, but the term is less often used to describe the physical size than the genre of a particular kind of newspaper. Tabloids are known (and often reviled ...

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3. Black and White and Read All Over: Tabloids and the Glocalization of Popular Media

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pp. 43-57

It is hard to miss the tabloid newspapers at newsstands, in corner shops, and on street corners in South Africa. Their mastheads are brightly colored, and the headlines, printed in big capital letters and oft en underlined, italicized, or with an exclamation mark adding emphasis, scream out a sensational bit of news across the whole of the front page: ...

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4. Not Really Newspapers: Tabloids and the South African Journalistic Paradigm

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pp. 58-79

In the previous chapter, we tracked the history of the tabloid genre and associated concepts such as “tabloidization” and “sensationalism.” It emerged that the sensationalism with which tabloids have been associated has been seen as a threat to journalism in various contexts around the world for more than a century and a half. During this time, dichotomies have been set up to contrast ...

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5. The Revolution Will Be Printed:Tabloids, Citizenship, and Democratic Politics in Post- Apartheid South Africa

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pp. 80-117

From the discussion thus far, one could safely say that the arrival of the new tabloid newspapers has changed the media landscape in post- apartheid South Africa irrevocably. Emerging within the first decade after the end of apartheid, these papers are at least temporally linked to the country’s democratization process. It was argued in the first two chapters that these links extend beyond the ...

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6. Truth or Trash? Understanding Tabloid Journalism and Lived Experience

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pp. 118-150

The changing media landscape and the shifts taking place in post-apartheid South African society only partly explain the popularity of the new tabloid papers. These macro-shifts in industry and society provide us with a political, economic, and sociological explanation of why tabloid newspapers emerged during a given period in the history of post-apartheid South Africa; the niche that they ...

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7. Often They Cry with the People: The Professional Identities of Tabloid Journalists

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pp. 151-174

The previous chapter explored the responses of tabloid readers to establish how they relate to the much-maligned tabloid media and to evaluate claims by critics that the tabloids serve to de-politicize their readers. It was found that tabloid readers, in most instances, take tabloids very seriously, but that they negotiate the truthfulness of tabloids’ claims in relation to their own daily lives and often ...

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8. Conclusion: Telling Stories

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pp. 175-180

This book began by posing the question: why a book on the South African tabloids? If the runaway commercial success of tabloids were the prime motivation for devoting scholarly attention to them, a one-dimensional study aimed at explaining—with an eye on replicating—their successful recipe would have been sufficient. But the tabloids are a challenging subject at least partly because their commercial success ...


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pp. 181-196


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pp. 197-208


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pp. 209-218

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004291
E-ISBN-10: 0253004292
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253354921

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 3 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: African Expressive Cultures