In case you’re interested, I’ve been invited to take part in a roundtable on tabloids in the Czech Republic tomorrow from 10am-12pm at Anglo American College. I’m not entirely sure how I’ve gotten to be invited to join such illustrious company as Jan Macháček of Hospodářské noviny and the Czech Business Journal and Helena Cejpová of Blesk, but I have. Maybe I have Iveta to thank for that?

Here are the questions we’ll be asked:

  • – Why is tabloid press inevitable in a democracy?
  • – Does it serve or have any positive attributes to society?
  • – Who makes it? Who reads it?
  • – How did it begin in the Czech Republic, post 1989?
  • – Where and how will it develop or evolve in the future?
  • I like tabloids. I like them quite a bit. I learned to speak Czech partly by reading Blesk every day. I love to read English tabloids because of their reductive flair; a good tabloid manages to condense a story down, but at the same time keeping their point of view obvious.

    I have a lot of Czech friends who really hate the bulvarní tisk, but I think a lot of that hatred is passive-agressive class conflict; bulvar for them is really shorthand for a media that caters to a pretty wide swath of Czech society: working stiffs in the panelaks who watch TV Nova, buy their clothes from Vietnamese vendors, and may not be able to have enough cash for the required weekend shopping trip to the hypermarket.

    I believe that if a story is important, it should be easy to explain. Czech journalists seem to live by the rule that ‘if you can’t dazzle ’em with brilliance, baffle ’em with bullshit.’

    Take Ekonom, for example. Please. It’s truly painful to read, even if you have some knowledge of business and economics, and a far cry from its British model, the Economist. Ekonom is very respectable, but I don’t think anybody on their staff ever wrote a proper lede.

    On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an article in Blesk go more than 10 paragraphs. And that forces its editors to be lively, to say the least.

    Sure, Blesk has made its errors. I seem to remember a lot of fawning coverage of Discoland Sylvie back in the days of purple suits. And by now you’d think all staffers would have died of gout from all the chlebičky they surely consume at all those parties they cover. But it’s managed to survive – and do quite well, thank you – by being punchy, brash and, yes, flash-y.

    The topic of tabloids and tabloid journalism comes at an interesting time, as my good friend Ken Layne – along with former Gawker.com editor Choire Sicha – is allegedly getting ready to launch Sploid.com, Gawker Media’s newest title. Some are trying to set up Sploid as an alternative to the Drudge Report. Knowing Ken, though, I don’t think that’s going to be the case. I figure it’ll be closer in spirit to his pioneering and kickass Tabloid.net, not to mention his work on Prognosis.

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