After a long fight with Beijing, today marks the last day of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily. Started in 1995 as a gossipy tabloid, Apple Daily was full of pap shots and chequebook journalism, smut and scandal. It was anarchic and scurrilous and had story-getting methods that would have made the News of the World’s eyes pop – but it did was it was set up to do: push back against a prevailing media culture that never challenged those in power.
It’s easy to scoff at the “importance” of gossip rags and tabloids but – if nothing else – they do provide a useful gauge of the health of a media ecosystem. When they’re working well, tabloids help prick the bubble of pomposity around the powerful, ignoring the bullshit formality and respectability that the ruling classes wrap themselves up in, and actively test the limits of the rules that are set.
And when they aren’t, it helps make it all the more clear that something is wrong.
HK media today quoted one Apple Daily reader as saying what they’d most miss is that once, thanks to the paper, “Top ministers would dare to admit they’d done wrong and be accountable. Nowadays, officials are always right…”