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3 November 2009

Keeping Tabs on The Tab

The Tab, the new-ish Cambridge University tabloid-style news outlet, hadn't entered my radar until I heard its "Totty" section being mocked on The News Quiz and criticised in most of the rest of the country's papers. I don't particularly have a problem with hot, female Cambridge undergrads getting some of their kit off if they want to and the fuss over this seemed a little excessive. One piece posted on the website today did catch my attention, however: Cambridge vs Bridgeford.

I initially noticed the piece because it was clear from the title that it was going to be about Trinity, ITV's Oxbridge-inspired, OTT cliché fest--a programme which can surely only appeal to Oxbridge students past and present. However, when I read the rest of Charlotte Wu's post, I realised that it bore more than a passing resemblance to a blog post I wrote about the show about a month ago. There are some similarities in the content of my post and the Tab piece, including:
  • comments about students discussing break-downs of A-level results and Christian tea parties
  • the fact that lowly fresher Charlotte (AKA token Christian)'s lowly room is right next door to the luxurious digs of the Dandelion Club president
  • the fact that the token Christian is a bit of a keeno
  • shenanigans with hot, Swedish bedders
  • references to "the peasants"
  • a criticism of the fact that the Dandelion Club wouldn't wear such ugly formal attire all the time
Of course, although a number of people have visited my blog having searched for "Trinity ITV" (or similar), I've no idea whether Ms Wu actually read my post or not. It's not implausible that these content overlaps are coincidental--after all, I am a former Cambridge student and am thus fairly likely to notice similar things about the show as a current Cambridge student would.

However, what isn't on is the fact that the format of the post is clearly borrowed. I based my post on the Daily Intel blog's brilliant Gossip Girl Reality Index posts, which hilariously resume each episode of Gossip Girl while scoring the believability of its contents. Each GG Reality Index post is divided into two sections--the realistic and the surrealistic and/or unbelievable; the realistic section is given a header that summarises a representative realistic part of the episode (e.g. "Realer Than Lord Snooty's Obvious Crush on Sebastian Valmont in Cruel Intentions" in my post) and the unrealistic section highlights a key fake bit (e.g. "Faker than the Warden Allowing DebaucheryFest (AKA the Feast of Fools) Provided that the Jesters "Volunteered" to Be Hazed All Year"). As I was clearly ripping off this format in my post, I made it clear where the idea came from and was careful to include links to the Daily Intel posts.

In a Guardian article criticising The Tab, Rowenna Davis writes, "I'm sure they know that if they spend their final year getting this tabloid off the ground, they'll walk into Rupert Murdoch's office and he'll be salivating to take them on, regardless of whether they've managed to achieve a degree while running the thing." Well, based on Ms Wu's piece, I'm sure this will be the case. After all, the tabloids are the worst culprits when it comes to failing to provide appropriate credits, attributions and sources for their content and, in online versions of stories, providing a link to these sources. By now, I'm certainly used to material I've written in a press release being "borrowed" or lazily rewritten (with the aid of a thesaurus to change some of the words) and given a new title, and used by an assortment of online news outlets. And if professional newspaper men and women are doing it, how can a bunch of students looking to boost their CVs be expected to do otherwise?


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