Tabloids, famously, don't have the best reputation. This year alone, some of the most influential British red tops have actively played a hand in fostering xenophobia; published some strange stuff about gun-toting adult refugees supposedly moonlighting as children; and very loudly and hysterically lost their shit en masse at some judges for upholding the law.
So there's that. But what of the people staffing these places? In my experience, the majority of tabloid journalists are just looking for quick bylines and a steady paycheque. When it comes to the exaggerated stories and headlines, it's certain editors you need to blame. Many of those I've encountered don't actually believe the bullshit they put out, but that's all the more insidious: sensationalism sells, so editors ramp it up without a care for the effect it will have on the public. And, as we've seen this year, the effects aren't generally all that positive.
From the outside, it may seem like red tops couldn't possibly sink any lower, but as someone with years of experience in the industry, I can assure you what's published often falls far short of what some editors wish they could print. To give you a sense of what goes on in some tabloid newsrooms, I scribbled down a handful of snippets from a number of editors' conversations as they were happening.
Some of their remarks were too awful to reproduce, so here's what we're left with: what some tabloid editors really think about the state of the world and the "everyday British people" they champion in print.
"Our target audience is fascists, racists and idiots. No point pretending otherwise."
On casually breaking the law:
"I put a bet on the winner of Bake Off every year. Sure, it's illegal [because journalists are told who will win ahead of the final], but how could you not when the answer's right there in front of you?"
On the Confederate flag:
"It's just a flag – people are so fucking fragile. Who gives a shit about what it symbolises? There are bigger problems in the world."
On the decline of journalism as we know it:
"Online journalism is essentially control C and control V. Oh, I shouldn't have said that, should I? [Laughs]"
On a photo taken of Black Friday shoppers:
"Horrible fucking chavs fighting over a TV. What scum. Look at that fat fucking slag in the middle there. Vile! Horrible!"
On Brexit, while clinking champagne glasses in celebration of the result:
Cheers to Brexit – may it be hard and fast!
On the BBC requesting a legitimate correction to a mistake:
"That prick at the BBC can fuck off – I don't care what his problem is. Does he think I give a shit? Because if he does, he's dim."
On entrapment, which journalists shouldn't worry about apparently?
"Entrapment is mostly a myth – we're fine. If it's not the police, it's just not an issue."
On overweight people's clothing preferences:
Editor one: "Look at that fat fucking cow! And she's wearing shorts – is she trying to blind me?"
Editor two: "I hate to break it to you, but fat people are people, too."
Editor one: "People don't look like that, mate."
On the unceasing tabloid obsession with celebrity:
"It's literally Holly Willoughby every fucking day. This time she's eaten a bowl of fucking cereal. We did one on her almost accidentally showing her vagina on telly yesterday, but then she didn't. What's the fucking point? Holly Willoughby, I swear to God."
On The X Factor and Honey G:
"Anyone who watches The X Factor is a fucking idiot, but the people going nuts about her shit rapping are the thickest of the thick. Don't they know the whole point of Honey G is to get them angry enough to keep watching?"
On foreign people "taking over" the public school system:
"I plan to have my children privately educated, where they won't be surrounded by foreigners. I know there are loads of Chinese and Indian kids in private schools, but they're OK because their parents push them to get the best grades."
Take into account the power that tabloid newspapers wield over the masses, and these quotes become a little more worrying; the people behind them are some of those who set the agenda for millions of Brits every day.
But is it the same story everywhere? Do all the arseholes gravitate towards the right-leaning, immigrant-bashing, hate-spreading tabloids, or is being callous just in some people's nature, regardless of where they work?
At the end of a recent shift I asked a new employee what her time at a marginally more left-wing publication was like. Was she witness to the same amount of problematic statements on a daily basis there? "I've worked on local papers, right and left-leaning dailies, and they're all the same," she said. "So it doesn't really matter where you go; this is it."
That said, I've also met and worked for a number of editors who don't see it as their duty to stoke fear and division. So never fear: there are still plenty of decent ones out there.
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