SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2022
Tabloid piffle is them: On occasion in the past, we've mentioned the way the online version of the Washington Post seemed to be devolving into a type of tabloidism.
Today, the Post announces that its long-running Sunday Outlook section will no longer be published. That makes this a good day to examine the decline of this devolving newspaper.
As we've noted in the past, the print edition of the Post still resembles a traditional newspaper. Starting on page A1, the most significant news reports appear in its initial section, with sports and entertainment reports shoved to the back of the bus.
Online, the devolving Washington Post seems to be in open revolt against such elitism. Consider the state of the paper's front page in today's online edition.
More specifically, our question is this:
How far down the online front page does a reader have to scroll to reach the WORLD and NATIONAL news sections? And now much dreck will that reader encounter before such sections appear?
The reader must scroll well more than halfway down the page to find those news sections. The dreck will be general over America as that scrolling proceeds.
Briefly, let's be fair! At the very top of the online Post's front page, three semi-traditional news reports instantly appear today, one atop the other. Here are the headlines on those three reports:
Ukrainian troops drive abandoned Russian tanks on new front line
Death on a train: A tragedy that helped fuel the railroad showdown
Forget the private jet and limo. Most world leaders relegated to buses for queen’s funeral.
You'll note that the second and third of these reports already seem to be turning in the direction of "human interest." (Major world leaders stuck on a bus!) But at that point, a new section appears: ONLY FROM THE POST.
Four reports appear in this section, with headlines presented from left to right in smaller font. In our view, the first two of these reports extend the tabloidy feel:
Missing people, buried bones at center of Oklahoma mystery
In cowboy country, the cradle of American masculinity, a mom tries to raise her boy to be a good man
Below that section, the front page offers large billing to four more news reports. Here are three of the headlines:
Could ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ really be done? We found out.
Can the Sunday morning talk show be saved?
College football winners and losers: Appalachian State survives with 53-yard Hail Mary
Let's be fair! By now, the Post actually has presented a certain rather limited number of traditional news reports. That said, those reports have been heavily interwoven with tabloidy human interest material—and after this, the deluge:
The next section a reader meets as he scrolls down the page is the all-important ADVICE section. Four headlines are offered there:
Carolyn Hax: Can a married person comfort unhappily single friends?
Ask Damon: My son quit college to work for a misogynist influencer
Miss Manners: My kids and grandkid live with me but don’t help out
Ask Amy: Should I join my husband to tell his parents we’re getting divorced?
We're now about a quarter of the way down the lengthy front page. Some traditional news reports have appeared, but we still have a long way to go before we reach the sections devoted to WORLD or NATIONAL news.
Our next major section is called THE WASHINGTON POST MAGAZINE. Four headlines are offered, including these:
Date Lab: She had to crane her neck to get a good look at him
The secrets and messages of the chairs where politicians sit
Next comes a section called DON'T MISS. The four headlines include these:
An ode to the scrunchie, the ’80s fashion invention we never forgot
He plays college football in North Dakota. He’s 49.
Below that comes a section called FOR YOU. Two of the four headlines:
Carolyn Hax: How to deal with in-laws’ constant fat-phobic comments
In the copycat NFL, now everyone wants a new-school offensive-minded whiz kid
Next, we hit the section called WELL + BEING. The first three reports (of five) are these:
Are soul mates real, according to science?
Why it is awesome that your brain can experience awe
12 questions to measure your workplace happiness
It's awesome that your brain can experience awe. What your brain can't yet experience, on the front page of this sliding newspaper, is a section of reports devoted to WORLD or NATIONAL news!
The reader has now scrolled almost halfway down the online Post's extremely lengthy front page. The next section, WHAT WE'RE WATCHING, recommends four movies or TV shows the reader can enjoy.
Soon, we move past the halfway point of the paper's front page, and we actually hit a section which bears this title: WORLD. But before we hit the NATIONAL section, we must scroll past such dreck as these reports from the LIFESTYLE section:
Design pros share their favorite autumn-scented candles
The new coupon-cutting: Apps that sell discounted food headed for the trash
Going with the flow on an impulsive trip to Thailand
If the reader of the online Post is still "going with the flow," he or she will finally reach the section devoted to NATIONAL news. The reader will then encounter the section devoted to POLITICS.
In each case, the reader will have scrolled roughly two-thirds of the way down the online Post's extremely lengthy front page. An endless array of pointless distractions will, by then, have been offered.
On a daily basis, the reader of the online Post will in fact encounter a few traditional news reports at the top of the site's front page. That said, these reports will quickly be interwoven with an endless array of tabloidized piffle—the kind of fare which still tends to be relegated to steerage in the Post's print editions.
Online, the reader will hit the piffle quite quickly. There is little sense that the major purpose of the paper is the presentation of WORLD or NATIONAL news.
Given major changes in revenue sources, newspapers like the Post are trying to sell boatloads of subscriptions. As at the clownishly sillified Slate, so too here:
Dumbing it down—way, way down—seems to be the fairly obvious method of choice. To wit:
Long before you reach the section called CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT, you'll learn about "the new coupon-cutting."
You'll be waylaid by "an ode to the scrunchie." You'll be given ways to measure your workplace happiness.
"Design pros" will bring you up to date concerning their favorite "autumn-scented candles." Also, Carolyn Hax will tell you how to deal with your in-laws' unkind remarks.
After today, the weekly Outlook section will no longer exist at the Washington Post. We've long been puzzled by the fact that this iconic Sunday section didn't appear, in any way, in the newspaper's online editions.
As of today, we understand why! Outlook was built around seriousness of purpose and attempts at erudition. Increasingly, those qualities seem to be artefacts of our rapidly failing nation's journalistic past.
Today we have naming of sections: As of today, this is the order of the sections found on the (lengthy) front page of the online Washington Post:
ONLY FROM THE POST
THE WASHINGTON POST MAGAZINE
WELL + BEING
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
QUEEN ELIZABETH II: MORE COVERAGE
The list of sections continues from there. You'll note that the scrolling reader still hasn't reached the section set aside for news from the D.C. region.
We've long been troubled by the way the online Post is devolving in the direction of the trivial and the tedious.
In print, the Post still resembles a traditional newspaper. Online, not nearly so much!