Tabloid Journalism in South Africa

Tabloid Journalism in South Africa

True Story!
Herman Wasserman
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 05/31/2010
Format: Paperback 3 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-22211-4
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A Choice Outstanding Academic Book of 2011

Less than a decade after the advent of democracy in South Africa, tabloid newspapers have taken the country by storm. One of these papers—the Daily Sun—is now the largest in the country, but it has generated controversy for its perceived lack of respect for privacy, brazen sexual content, and unrestrained truth-stretching. Herman Wasserman examines the success of tabloid journalism in South Africa at a time when global print media are in decline. He considers the social significance of the tabloids and how they play a role in integrating readers and their daily struggles with the political and social sphere of the new democracy. Wasserman shows how these papers have found an important niche in popular and civic culture largely ignored by the mainstream media and formal political channels.

Author Bio

Herman Wasserman is Professor in Journalism and Media/Cultural Studies at Rhodes University in South Africa. He is co-editor of At the End of the Rainbow: Power, Politics, and Identity in the Post-Apartheid South African Media and editor of Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies.


“Less than a decade after democracy reached South Africa, tabloid newspapers have taken the country by storm. The author looks closely at their success while global print media are in decline, along with their social significance, role in integrating readers, and struggles with the political and social sphere of the new democracy.”

“Convincing, bold, and provocative. The rise of mass circulating tabloids and their popularity with the poor and working class black majority are indicative of a post-apartheid South Africa determined to renegotiate an ethics of inclusion and a common humanity in journalism.”
 — Francis B. Nyamnjoh, University of Cape Town

“A much needed media history and political and social assessment of a genre that is currently very much the subject of conjecture.”
 — Sean Jacobs, The New School

“Hugely important for students, journalists, scholars, policy-makers, and practitioners. A much needed book that will contribute, both empirically and theoretically, to ongoing debates about popular culture, media globalization, and changing news discourses.”
 — Winston Mano, University of Westminster

“Wasserman's engagement with tabloid journalism in South Africa is comprehensive and critical, at all times attentive to detail and provides sound research and well-rounded critical inquiary into the recent rise of tabloids within the post-apartheid media sphere. Anyone who reads this book will be compelled to take South African tabloids seriously, and will be urged to consider the important socio-semiotic work they carry out for their vast numbers of readers today. ”
 — Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies

“This is a thoughtful, refreshing and timely contribution to the South African and international media literature. It attempts to grasp tabloid journalism in all its dimensions: in its blatant commercialism, its social justice implications, its unpalatable eccentricity and sensationalism, its challenge to hierarchies of taste and cultural capital, and its role vis-à-vis the national journalistic field on the one hand and broader society on the other.”
 — Journal of Modern African Studies

“Wasserman's sound research and keen analysis make this book valuable as a sociological source on race and ethnicity in South Africa, as well as a resource on communication and journalism. . . . An excellent study that is easy to read and understand. . . . Highly recommended.”
 — Choice

“In all, Wasserman makes a convincing case that South African tabloids should not be dismissed as 'trash journalism' but, in the socio-historical context, should be read politically and viewed as part of the local-regional-global dynamic. 32(2)”
 — Australian Journalism Review

“As a whole, Tabloid Journalism in South Africa is a must read for media historians, journalists, and perhpas just about anyone who is interested in ongoing questions about a post-apartheid South Africa. Wasserman's work deserves great respect for encouraging a localized standpoint of tabloids in South Africa. Perhaps most importantly, Herman Wasserman's work shows that tabloid newspaper readers like Rapabi Boithatelo illuminate the failure of the post-apartheid government and mainstream media in South Africa to address the needs of all citizens. ”
 — JHistory

“The book makes easy reading . . . [and is] interesting for its novel approach . . . to the examination of tabloid journalism in South Africa.Vol. 32, No. 1, Winter 2011”
 — Newspaper Research Journal

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Table of Contents


1. Shock! Horror! Scandal! The Tabloid Controversy and Journalism Studies in Post-Apartheid South Africa
2. Attack of the Killer Newspapers! Tabloids Arrive in South Africa
3. Black and White and Read All Over: Tabloids and the Glocalization of Popular Media
4. Not Really Newspapers: Tabloids and the South African Journalistic Paradigm
5. The Revolution Will Be Printed: Tabloids, Citizenship, and Democratic Politics in Post-Apartheid South Africa
6. Truth or Trash? Understanding Tabloid Journalism and Lived Experience
7. Often They Cry with the People: The Professional Identities of Tabloid Journalists
8. Conclusion: Telling Stories