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Disgust, pleasure and the failure of the liberal democratic model: tabloid talk, media capital and emotional citizenship

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This article examines widely circulating discourses on tabloid newspapers, analyzing what they tell us about dominant models of citizenship and their problems. Drawing on data from a Mass Observation Archive survey of ordinary people's views of media and democracy, the article demonstrates that there are only a limited number of ways to talk about popular journalism. What I here call tabloid talk is informed by a liberal democratic model of citizenship and denounces the sensationalist content of the popular press that is seen to undermine serious and rational public debate. Tabloid talk is used by respondents as a strategy to distance themselves from the newspapers, showing them off as good citizens. It also empowers them to critique the content of the newspapers. However, tabloid talk fails to explain audiences engagement with the popular press and therefore does not account for effective responses to media content.

Keywords: citizenship; discourses; journalism; liberal democracy; mass observation archive; tabloid newspapers

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Cardiff.

Publication date: 2008-06-13

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  • The International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics is committed to analyzing the politics of communication(s) and cultural processes. It addresses cultural politics in their local, international and global dimensions, recognizing equally the importance of issues defined by their specific cultural geography and those that traverse cultures and nations.
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