If you’ve not heard of The Tab you’ve done very well in your university career. It started up at Cambridge University with all the wit and nuance of a sexually frustrated rhinoceros, which at first glance looks a likely source for all their copy. It’s a terrible pastiche of a red-top newspaper with articles managing to make student life seem much more unpleasant than it actually is. How it started off in the same University that got Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin and 15 Prime Ministers, I’ll never know, but it hasn’t just stayed there. Since 2012 the Tab has made it to over 40 universities and now it’s at Glasgow’s door with the Glasgow Tab.
The Tab’s byline is “Everyone Reads It” which is a pretty insulting assertion about the 7.1 billion people to assume they are so ill-adjusted. Equating the small crossover of The Sun readers and students with 7.1 billion people only serves to add bad maths to The Tab’s increasingly long rap sheet of journalistic faux pas. The Glasgow Tab’s byline is “We’re Here to Fuck Shit Up” and thus far the most controversial thing they’ve done is call out Paddy Lyons (infamous English Literature professor) for being grumpy, which is like calling out the grass for being green or the Boyd Orr for looking awful. “Fuck Shit Up” indeed.
The problem isn’t what the Glasgow Tab has done (it's been relatively inoffensive thus far), but what it's a part of. When the Tab kicked off at Cambridge University in 2009, it had its own Page 3 called “Tab Totty” featuring Cambridge students in a Page 3 style. It still runs a "Rear of the Year" competition, which the then editor went on to defend. There was a men’s one too, but if your competition involves voting for people in their underwear it’s not exactly the New Statesman. I don’t know what about Glasgow made the Tab think we were in the market for that kind of stuff, but I really hope they’re the only ones thinking it.
The Tab’s endorsements are few and far between, but let's start with David Dinsmore (The Sun’s Editor in Chief), who despite pressure for years states that he still has no intention of taking down Page 3. The Tab clearly has a type. The Tab also formerly had Godfrey Bloom as a writer, a man who’s just resigned from being a UKIP MEP after a career of being a top-quality arsehole. He famously called female attendees at his party conference sluts, called for the unemployed to lose the right to vote and a host of other controversies. Seriously, look the guy up, I couldn’t believe the kind of shit he got up to. Did I mention he was writing in The Tab to defend calling a disabled student Richard the Third?
Am I writing this because I don’t like tabloids? I’ll concede that they’re not my usual reading material but I know they’ve got their own prominent place in society for a reason. However, headlines such as “What Does Your Condom Say About You?” would make Piers Morgan blush in their sheer banality. Do you honestly think people want to read an article titled “This guy recorded himself pulling 30 girls in a night…and sent the video to all his friends” or “The graduation photographers think I’m an Indonesian girl called Winona.” Maybe they do, perhaps I’m just not getting it.
Will the Tab become the University of Glasgow’s tabloid? Possibly. I really hope it doesn’t. There’s a thriving community of student media on this campus and I simply don’t think we need a news organ which brings the standard of conversation down rather than up. This University has been producing quality journalism and debate since GUM started in 1889 and the Guardian joined it in 1932 as The Gilmore Globe. We now have six student media outlets covering papers, magazines, TV and radio. We don’t need the Tab. It’s not going to make Glasgow’s student media better, it’s just making being a student here worse.