So where does The Age stand now on the use of the word tabloid? Hitherto it has unfailingly used it perjoratively to pour scorn on the Herald Sun and other titles in the Murdoch stable and the “lesser” press in general.
But the past three issues of The Age have used
the dreaded word three times in two paragraphs on its front page in
order to over-promote the perceived excellence of its design makeover.
So what word now will it use to derogate the Herald Sun and the rest of the Murdoch press?
This is a good point. As Julian Burnside QC explained to Crikey readers
last week, the word tabloid was originally derived from pharmaceutical
company Burroughs Wellcome which produced a mini-tablet with a
concentrated dose. However, it quickly took hold to mean a concentrated
dose of anything and then became widely known for smaller size
newspapers with a tendency for grubby stories and sensationalism.
Burroughs Wellcome sued to protect its trademark and lost.
Steve Harris was editor-in-chief of the Herald and Weekly Times in the
mid 1990s he tried to ban the use of the word “tabloid” by including it
along with the f-bomb and other swear words in the Herald Sun’s
computer system obscenity blocker. The system would send a warning
which had to be over-ridden to accept a story with the word “tabloid”
Harris liked to think that the Herald Sun was
the most upmarket “tabloid” in the world, and he did do a good job
rescuing it from the crazy days of Piers Akerman’s erratic reign. But
Harris’s successor Peter Blunden is not so pretentious about what he’s
producing and continues to give The Age a daily circulation pounding.
The ban was implemented in 1996 and was obviously hard to enforce because a search of the entire Herald Sun archive since the merger of The Sun and The Herald
in late September 1990 reveals 1,173 mentions of the word, 495 of which
occurred during Harris’s four-year tenure from 1993 to 1997.
Harris was always a broadsheet man from his days at The Age,
and finished up returning there in 1997 as the publisher and
editor-in-chief. Now he’s CEO of the Melbourne Football Club and,
according to some talk around town, an aspirant to succeed Andrew
Demetriou as the next CEO of the AFL.