Sharon Marshall’s Tabloid Girl is the book that lifts the lid on the filthy underworld that is tabloid reporting in the UK. If you’re as obsessed by celebrity culture and the newspapers that gave rise to it, then you really should ship this review and just buy the book.
In this somewhat biographical account of her decade working in newspapers, Anderson is setting herself up as a tabloid Belle de Jour. Yes, I can see a television series about a harassed Showbiz reporter going to extraordinary lengths to file copy, all the while looking for elusive love.
Taking a serious head for just a second, I’m surprised that Marshall’s candid account of the inner workings of the nations tabloids hasn’t caused a scandal. She happily regales her readers with tales of how tabloid reporters literally make up interviews and pass them to the subject’s management for approval. If the management’s happy – bearing in mind the interview is total fiction – the story is published.
What’s truly appalling about this is that Marshall claims that 4 million people will read these daily falsehoods and believe every word that they’ve read. She goes on to note that celebrities themselves will feed tabloids stories and also arrange to be photographed at predetermined locations. So when a celeb couple goes out strolling and a photographer captures them looking all loved up – it’s mostly a set-up.
Marshall refers to the Showbiz desk as the Department of Silly Stories, implying that the making up the news bit is confined to the entertainment section. Still, she tells the whole thing in a happy-go-lucky style and you have to applaud her have-a-go attitude to the point of turning up at wife-swapping parties posing undercover for a story.
However, I have to comment on this. I found it ridiculous that Sharon’s account of the underground sex parties riddled with revulsion. And I don’t understand the tabloid fascination with the idea that people want to have sex in different ways. The same writer later regales us with a tale of an almost-threesome with two colleagues, or speed dating exploits or even dating much younger men. I just think that it’s wrong to ruin people’s lives by exposing their sexual lives for the titillation of the nation. At least cover it in a mature way, talking to these people, finding out why they’re involved in the lifestyle. Note: I am not a swinger!
Moving on…Marshall marries her narrative to her own manhunting exploits, though sizzling romps are thin on the ground for her. I’m not sure this is totally a successful idea, though I can see why the editors might have thought it would add extra spice. But really, having spent most of her working life as a day shifter (meaning she could have been fired at any time), once she sees that her work life is a barrier to romance, she could have quit at any time.
And just when you think she’s going to slam the establishment that started her career, for some reason she backs down and says she loves tabloid culture. Despite having felt scummy enough to want out of it. Of course, she claims it’s been reformed over the years, but one only needs to have a look at the front pages to realise that’s complete rubbish. Stars are celebrated and vilified, often on the same day.
Still, Marshall managed to churn out an impressive page-turner that I read in just over a day. It’s a well-paced piece of work, enjoyable to read some of the odd things she did. And I really must check out the Ross and Emily wedding episode from Friends to see if I can spot her in the congregation. (Read the book to find out what I mean!)