albeit: ofschoon.

to attempt: proberen.

broadsheet: groot formaat.

convention: gewoonte.

die-hard: volhouder, conservatief.

to follow suit: het voorbeeld volgen.

to imply: suggereren.

roundup: overzicht.

tabloid: op de helft of het kwart van het formaat.

tenacity: hardnekkigheid.

For decades, it has been the convention to divide the national British press up into two types – ‘popular’ newspapers and ‘quality’ newspapers. However, it is not hard to spot a troubling elitism, not to say snobbery, in these descriptions. After all, they imply that a newspaper can’t be both high quality and popular at the same time. And so, even though it has to be admitted that sales figures consistently suggest this is true (the ‘popular’ papers are the ones that sell more), it has been the more recent, less snobbish, custom to describe the two types as ’tabloids’ and ‘broadsheets’ instead. This has been possible because, without exception, there has been a difference in format between the two types, the serious papers being printed on extremely large pages, twice the size of those of the popular ones. It has been a distinction with remarkable tenacity. In the early 1990s, a new paper called The Correspondent was launched, advertising itself as “the nation’s first quality tabloid”. It closed down after only one year. Clearly, the British had not been ready for this assault on the established order of things, and so the ability to read an intelligent newspaper continued to depend on the additional skill of expert paper-folder (otherwise, by the time you attempted to turn to page 5, your paper was already in several pieces).

But a couple of years ago, The Independent newspaper, perhaps trying to live up to its name, started printing an alternative tabloid format alongside its standard broadsheet size. Soon after, The Times did the same thing. And this time, the new format has been a success. Sales of both these papers have increased, while those of the other two qualities, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, have decreased. Six months ago The Independent became tabloid only. Early this month, despite the cries of horror from many old die-hards, The Times followed suit.

These changes should be welcomed as a further, albeit small, sign of the breaking down of social class barriers in Britain. It means that, when BBC2’s Newsnight programme finishes with its roundup of the next day’s newspaper headlines, it can no longer divide them up into broadsheets and tabloids.

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