Feminising Influences on Mass Circulation

a comparative study of Le Petit Journal and the Daily Mail

Principal Investigator : Dr. Jane Chapman
Research Assistant : Kate Allison

British Academy Funded Research Project


The concerns of this project demonstrate the continuing dilemmas of how female identity is to be represented by the media and the repercussions for citizenship and the public sphere. This is the first time that female influence on the early mass circulation press has been quantified in detail, and also the first time that comparisons have been made on the theme between two countries. The research into Europe’s first mass circulation daily and into Britain’s first tabloid daily reveals that criticisms of ‘tabloidisation’ have a historical as well as a contemporary dimension. This dates back to the formative years of the tabloid; in other words, it is not a purely 20th century phenomenon. Press historians have assumed that the obvious widening of audience appeal in the mass circulation popular press, referred to as ‘New Journalism’ with its fresh emphasis on trivia, crime coverage and pulp serialised fiction, also implied a progressive view of women. Our findings prove otherwise, refuting the ‘feminisation’ argument. Decisions about what the female audience was interested in were made largely by men and defined fairly conservatively.