Student Media Watchdog Association

Tabloids or Newspapers?

In Elizabeth Edwards, Sensationalism on December 12, 2010 at 2:36 pm


By Katherine Bies

Elizabeth Edward’s life already had the makings of tragedy with the death of her son, the public infidelity of her husband, and her ten year struggle with breast cancer. Her tragic death this past week finalized an emotional tale with which many tabloids could and did transform their audiences into big, blubbering wrecks.

For those of us who haven’t found the time yet to curl up with a copy of People to learn every dramatic detail of Elizabeth’s life and death, we’ve had to satisfy ourselves with the less emotionally saturated news articles of more hard-news inclined news organizations. Or so we thought.

Example A:

People Headline: “Inside Elizabeth Edwards’s Last Days”


ABC Video Headline: “Elizabeth Edwards’ Final Days”

On the other hand, maybe not.

Example B:

People Headline: “Elizabeth Edwards Was My Second Mother’, Says Nanny”


MSNBC Headline: “Elizabeth Edwards’ nanny remembers ‘amazing woman’”

Can someone say déjà vu?

Click Here to Read More

There are obvious similarities between the headlines and content of MSNBC’s and ABC’s “US News” and People’s “News.” It appears that the once fine line between tabloid and newspaper has blurred.

I understand that the death of a prominent political role model is hard news to some extent, but in what detail should national news organizations be covering the events? All that really is necessary is one news article highlighting the who, what, and where of the death and the funeral, and one obituary commemorating Elizabeth’s life and service. Instead, news organizations such as MSNBC, ABC, CNN, and Fox News all have multiple articles performing these same functions.

CNN Headlines: “Elizabeth Edwards funeral to be open to the public,” “Elizabeth Edwards to be buried next to son,” “Friend of Edwards: ‘She went in peace and made peace”

FOX News Headlines: “President Obama Reacts to Elizabeth Edwards’ Death: “Deeply Saddened,” “The Gift Elizabeth Edwards Gave Me,” “Family, Friends to Honor Elizabeth Edwards at Funeral”

For example, these articles pertaining to the location of the funeral, statements of Elizabeth’s character and achievements, and the president’s reaction to her death could all be incorporated into one obituary article. There must be other news stories that are just as pressing that journalists could be reporting on instead. If readers want more on the subject, let them turn to the tabloids for the other juicy and heart-wrenching details.

Elizabeth’s death should have been and was acknowledged by news organizations, but their in-depth, emotional and sometimes sensationalist renderings should be left to the tabloids. Let’s be honest, it’s not like the tabloids need any help in that area.

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