Front Page Faux Pas: Can’t Get You Out Of My Tabloid

Thursday, 15 May, 2014

Greetings, fellow media consumers. The latest instalment of Front Page Faux Pas begins with a roundup of a few slip-ups from the last few weeks of news, before getting into some more serious boat rocking.

First, we have the not-so-elusive News Corp watermark debacle which, no doubt, saw those responsible for the decision make like Education Minister Christopher Pyne and nervously laugh off the entire situation (as he did on this week’s Q&A). After spending over $200,000 on the Packer and Gyngell brawl photos and video, they did not let a cent go to waste, as mUmBRELLA pointed out.

A more grand, yet unintended, slip-up occurred on 25 April when the Australian Financial Review accidentally sent a draft copy of their front page to print. This included, among many errors, the headline ‘ARMS BUILDUP, BUYS PLANES, WORLD IS FUKT’. Thankfully, the monumental fuk-up was noticed and remedied in all states and territories except for Western Australia, who were in for a small shock on Friday morning.

However, this column is not about slip-ups like this (or this). It is about intended content that is questionable.

The debate over The Age’s ‘we’re not tabloid, we’re compact’ demeanour, that ensued with the paper’s shift from broadsheet in March 2013 (followed by the weekend editions in March this year), is still alive and kicking. In the early days of the change, many agreed that the newspaper’s content remained consistent, with only the size being adjusted.

Jump to 29 April, though, and things aren’t as clear cut.

A picture of Kylie Minogue at this year’s Logies, with jerking backup dancers, occupies half of the front page news space, along with the headline ‘Kylie’s Logie commotion’. It’s not an extreme case of The Age getting all tabloidy with time—there is definitely a story there—but it is a sign that the line’s becoming blurred.

The story reveals only some of the dancers involved in Minogue’s performance on the night were offered a fee of $100, with the rest left unpaid, when the legal minimum is $200 and the industry standard is $550. As I mentioned, there is a story there that should be told, but it is not so much the content as it is the framing that is the problem. From metres away, any eager celebrity scandal-sucker would see this front page and swoon: “Hey, look, Kylie Minogue! What’s that? Logie commotion? Scandal? Gimme the juicy deets!” According to The Age, the tacky tabloid stuff this is not so far from isn’t what they’re all about. They claim to have not used, what they term, the “T-word” because then people might see them as “one of those red-top UK tabloids” (examples here), stating they “don’t want to go anywhere near there”.

In the interest of adhering more closely to this idea of ‘compact’ over tabloid, here are some suggestions of stories which The Age could have run besides a comparatively sized down Kylie:

  • Construction giant, Grocon, was finally charged over the wall collapse on Swanston St that proved fatal for Bridget Jones and her brother Alexander, as well as French national Dr Marie-Faith Fiawoo. The Herald Sun ran this story on their front page on the same day, claiming that, if found guilty, the company could face up to $9 million in fines.
  • The front page story used by sister publication, The Sydney Morning Herald, on the potential hacking of millions of Australians’ private records due to the subpar security used for The Department of Health’s website.
  • The update on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 search, given by Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the time.
  • A greater focus on the story ‘Premier’s office in the loop’, possibly with Tandberg’s comic (see below) vastly increased—it was a good one.