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How to Write for a Sleazy Tabloid Newspaper

Updated on January 2, 2021
Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank wrote humorous bits for her college newspaper many years ago. Her funny observations have continued in print and online.

Many of us have come to equate the word "tabloid" with the trashy, sleazy, low class, scummy sensational papers you only read out of the corner of your eye while in line at the supermarket checkout queue. You really want to read it, but you don't want anyone to see you reading it.

And it's piloted by a space alien!
And it's piloted by a space alien!

It's the Format Not the Content

The word "tabloid", in official professional newspaper terminology actually refers to the newspaper format whose pages measure about 11 inches by 12 1/2 inches, as opposed to the larger "broadsheet" style of most metro daily newspapers.

Yet the connotation of the word "tabloid" , especially when used in phrases like "tabloid news", has developed a somewhat grimy undertone.

When I sent an article to an editor of a fine, upstanding, valiant, decent, tabloid-format publication she expressed some alarm at my passing reference about not wanting to be associated with "garbage printed in tabloid papers."

I quickly reassured her that I, in no way, ever had the slightest cognizant or deliberate association of "her tabloid" with "those tabloids" especially since she seemed interested in my writing.

I also hoped that using words like "cognizent" would impress her with my obvious superior vocabulary.

With near-maniaical immediacy verging on panic and the phrase "you just blew it" echoing over and over in my head, I explained that I was referring to tabloid-type content rather than tabloid-style format when I made the comment.

Possibly, I need to revise my terminology, because like some of you, I was thinking of garbage relative to trashy, sensational, whacky, incredible publications like the ones with headlines such as: "Prophetic Message Seen on Portuguese Fish-drying Rack" or, "Wife Divorces 400 lb. Spouse to Marry 500 lb.Lover," or "Decapitated Head Whispers Murderer's Name".

I could never make up stuff like that, though I did fabricate the example headlines.

My early training was in writing for respectable PTA bulletins and Little League newsletters which rarely gave opportunities to write about whispering decapitated heads.

In fact, when something stupid happens in a Little League game, reporting the instance always require careful, respectable, tactful recounting. Those who were at the game will know the truth. Those who were not don't need to know the embarrassing details.

If little Jimmy Stumblemeyer (name changed to protect the innocent . . . me.) His real name was Jimmy Stumblemaster. Anyway, when little Jimmy falls over the base and tags his own teammate after bouncing the ball while facing in the wrong direction, you learn to report it as "a noble and valiant effort".

This type of writing, for example employing words like "noble" and "valiant," isnt used in those trashy tabloids.

Michael Jackson - Tabloid Junkie Video

Trying to write for "those" publications can be very risky. Can you imagine getting a rejection slip from a sleazy scummy tabloid? How low can you get?It would be disgraceful. Your self-esteem would reach a new low.

I've been writing long enough to have a considerable file of rejection slips from some very prestigious, respectable and esteemed publications.

My rejection file, however, is carefully identified with the words "publications correspondence" since the last thing I want to see, when I open my file drawer, is the word "Rejection Slips."

In the meantime I wanted to reassure the editor of the aforementioned respectable paper that I think her publication is a wonderful, decorous, civilized, and magnificent tabloid-format paper and that she, herself is a wonderful, discerning, decorous and magnificent editor.

In the other meantime I have asked her to disregard that story I sent about the lecherous, polka-dotted space creature who's been slurping up electrical energy from the nation's power grid.

Do you read tabloid newspaprs?

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    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      6 years ago from California Gold Country

      I'm not a fan of pop celebrity culture myself, so I cannot answer your question. I guess they are looking to grab celebrity subjects that a lot of people are interested in, for whatever reason.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      6 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Just curious - why do some celebrities keep winding up in the tabloids, while others never get in there? For example, you used to see Cher in there a lot. However, once they made the mistake of writing something about Carol Burnett, and she sued the living crap out of them. I guess that's why she never appeared in there again - as far as I know - but why do you keep hearing about the same ones, like Brad Pitt, and even President Clinton?

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      Yes, terminology is the key. What a wonderful language we have, to have access to so many nuances. Thanks for the comment Billrrr.

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 

      10 years ago from Cape Cod

      When I was in the newspaper business, I was in a group that had both formats. Our answer to the problem was to never use the word 'tabloid'...we simply called our fine newspapers 'Tabs'. The public never seemed to confuse our 'Tab' with those horrid 'Tabloids'.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      I'll read the headlines, but wouldn't be caught in public turning the pages.

    • profile image

      Newspaper Headlines 

      11 years ago

      Tabloid journalism is like a trend now. This is to make it all spicy and people too love to read the tabloid headlines.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      11 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thank you for your comments Delores and Dutch.

      Yes, It looks like we are already on the slippery slope or maybe it's the new version of the "tower of babble".

      And though I wrote this with a somewhat lighthearted tone-- it is really rather sad.

    • Dutch Hermit profile image

      Dutch Hermit 

      11 years ago from Utrecht

      Well, the content of the new media is the content of the old. The tabloids are the new media, and as far as I am concerned the content is a bit the same. It is for the last maybe two years that I see slight changes between the so-called quality papers, which are obvious Dutch newspapers, and the tabloids. Of course, the tabloids have always had cheaper news and less of the information I sought. More news agency news and alike. In the future I think the real newspapers will fail and the tabloids will be spoiled some more. It is all about the money, that's all.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      12 years ago from East Coast, United States

      If you ask me, it all looks like tabloid journalism now. Thought I haven't seen Batboy around lately. Or that alien who always shows up behind whatever presidident is office, have not seen the alien with Obama, unless I no longer pay attention.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      I don't even think they have journalism classes any more. Newspapers are folding-- in more ways than one.

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      12 years ago from Central North Carolina

      LOL, I love your hubs! Sometimes when I am watching the "respectable" news on TV I wonder if they even have the word "yellow journalism" in the journalism text books these days.

    • LondonGirl profile image


      12 years ago from London

      Tabloid headlines can be absolutely brilliant - like the one lphigenia posted, above. I was going to mention it, but then saw she had beaten me to it (-:

      The best combine news and witty references to social memes - such as the recent Sun headline, “You can’t quit quicker than a thick Quick quitter.” For non-UK peeps, Bob Quick has to resign as a high-ranking police officer when he waved a secret document about anti-terrorist investigations in front of photographers, and there is a long running ad campaign here for tyre-changers, called "You can't fit quicker than a Kwik-Fit fitter".

      A recent Sun headline about a ppoliceman who changed sex and became a policewoman was, ""NO KNOBBY BOBBY KEEPS JOBBY"

      And, in relation to North Korea's missile attempts, "HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE KOREA?"

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      I like that one.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      I love the extreme tabloid headlines - and they can be quite clever.

      When a lowly semi-pro Scottish football team (Inverness Caledonian Thistle - "Cali" ) knocked top-ranking Celtic United out of the Scottish Cup... "Super Cali Go Ballistic, Celtic are Atrocious"

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      No, no not me (they told me to say that). Micheal Jackson maybe . . .

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      12 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Cool! Rochelle has been on the Mothership? Far out!

    • Paper Moon profile image

      Paper Moon 

      12 years ago from In the clouds

      In other news, writer Rochelle Frank was returned from the "Mother Ship" with this story planted in her head by the aliens.....

      Sorry, couldn't help myself. Hehe.


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