What is the public sphere?
Essentially it is a metaphor for an area of social life where individuals and groups can congregate to discuss matters of mutual interest. It is a ‘theater in modern societies’, a space where citizens can debate about common concerns. Most importantly, it is egalitarian, and open to all (Lecture 5).
Public spheres are very often, mediated spheres. Newspapers and television programs such as Current Affairs, Q and A are excellent examples of mediated spheres. Alternate ‘mediated spheres’ however, are a relatively new phenomenon. An example of an alternate public sphere is Australia’s Next Top Model, where a discussion of specific issues, such as body image, eating disorders, sexual identity and relationships are explored.
Another alternate public sphere is Big Brother. This public sphere explores issues such as sexual identity, sexual behavior, relationships and scandal.
Alternate public spheres exist to enable a discussion of issues that are important to different groups. As seen in the previous examples, issues of importance to such groups can range from relationships, to personal and emotional matters.
What now counts as news derives from what topics are most popular in the public spheres of today. This has inevitably led to the ‘tabloidization’ of the public sphere.
What is the ‘tabloidization’ of news?
Colin Sparks once remarked: “The tabloid is a form marked by two major features: it devotes relatively little attention to politics, economics and society and relatively much to diversions like sports, scandal and popular entertainment.” http://myhazytirades.blogspot.com.au/2007/05/tabloidization-of-media.html
Tabloids have an exceptionally strong quality about them. They are loud and brash, use sensationalism as a tool, giving prominence to anything that arouses public interest. “Their journalism covers the realm of fantastic and sometimes the crazily invented and their consumers know and accommodate this in their reading strategies” http://myhazytirades.blogspot.com.au/2007/05/tabloidization-of-media.html
Why is it that people would rather be distracted with minor issues rather than larger ones?
According to Catherine Lumby, tabloid news shows such as Oprah and Ellen, are indicative of an expansion in the range of issues and opinions becoming present through the media. ‘By juxtaposing the usual serious news with the tabloid, private and public spheres are spontaneously connected’. http://myhazytirades.blogspot.com.au/2007/05/tabloidization-of-media.html This indicates a shift in the public’s outlook towards the media. People want to interact with news. They want to feel involved, and for it to relate to them. Perhaps ‘serious’ news is just too distant, too irrelevant to people’s lives these days.
What do we conclude then? What is the impact of ‘the tabloid effect?’
In my opinion, while ‘serious’ news may not interest the public, it is still of public interest to be aware of what is happening in the world. The trivialization of media by catering to the interests of people is not a good thing.
The trivialization of media by catering to the interests of people is not a good thing. It satisfies the public’s interest, but not its welfare. We are thriving on our ignorance. Unfortunately we, as viewers and consumers of news have little power do anything in the way of solving this problem.
Ohwell, I wonder which celebrity in Hollywood is pregnant at the moment?