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What's the Difference Between Broadsheet Newspapers and Tabloids?

Different Types of Papers for Different Audiences

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What's the Difference Between Broadsheet Newspapers and Tabloids?

The NY Daily News, a tabloid paper

Mario Tama/Getty Images

You may have heard the terms "broadsheet" and "tabloid" being thrown around to describe different kinds of newspapers. So what's the difference?

Broadsheets

Broadsheet refers to the most common newspaper format, which is typically 11 to 12 inches wide and 20 or more inches long. Many of the nation's most respected newspapers - The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall St. Journal, and so on - are broadsheet papers. Broadsheet papers are usually six columns across.

Beyond their size, broadsheet papers tend to employ a traditional approach to news that emphasizes in-depth coverage and a sober tone in articles and editorials. Broadsheet readers often tend to be fairly affluent and educated, with many of them living in the suburbs.

Tabloids

In the technical sense, tabloid refers to a type of newspaper that typically measures 11 X 17 inches and is five columns across, narrower than a broadsheet newspaper. Since tabloids are smaller, their stories tend to be shorter than those found in broadsheets.

And while broadsheet readers tend to be upscale suburbanites, tabloid readers are often working class residents of big cities. Indeed, many city dwellers prefer tabloids because they are easy to carry and read on the subway or bus.

Tabloids also tend to be more irreverent and slangy in their writing style than their more serious broadsheet brothers. In a crime story, a broadsheet refers to a police officer, while the tabloid calls him a cop. And while a broadsheet might spend dozens of column inches on "serious" news - say, a major bill being debated in Congress - a tabloid is more likely to zero in on a heinous sensational crime story or celebrity gossip.

In fact, the word tabloid has come to be associated with the kind of supermarket checkout aisle papers - such as the National Enquirer - that focus exclusively on splashy, lurid stories about celebrities.

But there's an important distinction to be made here. True, there are the over-the-top tabloids like the Enquirer, but there are also the so-called respectable tabloids - such as the New York Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Boston Herald and so on - that do serious, hard-hitting journalism. In fact, the New York Daily News has won 10 Pulitzer Prizes, print journalism's highest honor.

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