In the wake of television presenter Caroline Flack’s death, there has been outrage over the way that her life and in particular her arrest was reported by the media. In a system that supposedly operates on the premise of innocent until proven guilty, sections of the British media had already appeared to sentence Flack, taking the opportunity of a high-profile case to generate gossip. In a now deleted article, the Sun newspaper published a story with an image of a Valentine’s day card with an inappropriate message making light of the nature of her alleged assault.

The problem with tabloids covering incidents like this appears to be that rather than acting as a source of factual, unbiased information to inform the public of important issues such as domestic abuse, they use them instead to create shock and even humour with no consideration of the impact the story will have on the people involved — or indeed its truthfulness . Many people in the public eye have fallen victim to vilification by tabloids but women in particular have been objectified and criticised disproportionality. This is especially so when it comes to their bodies. Frequent discussions and images of women shown in unflattering angles being commented upon in relation to their weight gain or loss, among other physical attributes, can be seen nearly everywhere.

The need for a quick story that will generate sales and clicks dominates the production of tabloids. Recently, Johnny Depp appeared in court to sue the Sun for branding him a ‘wife-beater’ over allegations that he abused his ex-wife, Amber Heard. Again, the topic of domestic abuse is extremely sensitive and serious and continues to be used by the tabloids to gain attention regardless of the facts of the case. Rather than leaving legal issues to the justice system they very often convict people in the court of public opinion with skewed facts and insufficient information.

This kind of journalism is ruining careers and lives and tabloids should begin to take far more responsibility for the information they present to their readers. The Sun has recently reported loses of £68 million as sales fall. The death of Caroline Flack appears to have shocked people into realising the fatal consequences of reading such casual sources and if tabloids want to survive, they will have to accept that the public is only becoming more aware of the media they consume.

For many decades, tabloids have been a popular choice of news for large numbers of the population and are often associated with the working class. However, many of them have not been without their fair share of scandals and exploitations. Once again, the Sun came under fire for its untruthful and damaging headline regarding the infamous 1989 Hillsborough disaster which saw it shunned from the city of Liverpool, although it remains popular and available in other parts of the country. In an incident in which 96 people lost their lives, the newspaper reported erroneous information about the actions of the fans. Tabloids are known for their sensational headlines, but this particular event displayed that often the line between a captivating headline and false information can and will be crossed in the name of creating shock factor.

As with most tabloids, they target the working-class demographic; but reporting such as this was aimed to stir hatred at Liverpudlians during the Thatcher period. At this time, Liverpool was going through a ‘managed decline’ directed by the government, leading to high poverty rates and unemployment. The article aimed at turning working-class communities on each other by championing the false stereotype that people from Liverpool are criminals. Perpetuating stereotypes such as this always has and continues to be a feature of tabloids and the consequences can be grievous.

Another example was the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Hugely unethical journalistic methods were used in the pursuit of stories leading to public outrage and the closure of the newspaper in 2011. Tabloids on the whole have a history of unreliable reporting, misleading headlines, unethical practices and personal, often unjustified, attacks. The impact of the media shouldn’t be underestimated, as has been shown by recent and historic events. Tabloids have a responsibility as much as the rest of the media to be truthful and considerate of the audience. Regarding the Sun in particular, maybe the recently declining sales will prove to them that it is about time they changed their ways.

We are more aware then ever of the issue of poor mental health and tabloids have contributed enormously to this problem, whether this be directly via insensitive discussions of particular celebrities or more generally through crude attacks on women’s  bodies. Things need to change quickly to prevent anymore needless suffering. It remains the responsibility of those with power and a voice — essentially those in government as well as publishing — to regulate what and how serious issues are reported.

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