Archive for the ‘NY Times’ tag

Is China using the earthquake to political advantage?

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The LA Times has a distinctly different take than most newspapers on the Chinese earthquake on its front page today. The article – ‘Amid the tragedy lies opportunity’ – suggests the Chinese government is using the disaster as ‘an opportunity for a dramatic image makeover’.

‘After months of relentless coverage of Tibetan clashes and human rights abuses,’ Barbara Demick writes, ‘the earthquake shows a new China, one that is both compassionate and competent’. Demick emphasises how ‘much of the footage seen at home and abroad so far comes from state-owned CCTV television’.

Too cynical? Well, if you compare it to the New York Times it is. The NY Times, which also assesses media coverage of the earthquake, comes to a very different conclusion. For the NY Times, ‘the rescue effort playing non-stop on Chinese television is remarkable for a country that has a history of concealing the scope of national calamities and then bungling its response’.

Like its West Coast counterpart, the NY Times notes that the Chinese government news agency, Xinhua, has ‘offered an unusually vigorous stream of updates about casualties and problems confronting rescue teams’. But the East Coast paper has a much less sceptical explanation. Indeed it concludes by quoting a Chinese media professor saying that ‘this is the first time the Chinese media has lived up to international standards… I think the government is learning some lessons from the past’.

Still, Chinese media’s recent reaction to the Olympic flame debacle adds some fuel to the LA Times’ scepticism. During the protests Chinese television news was screening, on a repetitive loop, the moment when a protester tried to grapple the flame away from a disabled flame carrier. In other words – you got it – protester horrid and bad, carrier of the flame good.

Written by Martin Moore

May 14th, 2008 at 9:29 pm

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A lesson in self-criticism

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Clark Hoyt, the Public Editor of the New York Times, published a fascinating article in the paper on Sunday (thank you Jim Giles for bringing it to my attention).

‘Seeing Al Qaeda around every corner’ strongly criticises the NYT for swallowing the Bush administration’s rhetoric on Iraq. ‘Bush and the United States military in Baghdad’ Hoyt writes ‘are increasingly pointing to a single villain on the battlefield: Al Qaeda’.

But instead of challenging the administration’s simplification of the situation, the New York Times has, Hoyt says ‘slipped into a routine of quoting the president and the military uncritically about Al Qaeda’s role in Iraq — and sometimes citing the group itself without attribution’.

Hoyt has spoken to ‘Middle East experts’ to confirm that the situation on the ground is ‘much more complicated’ than the one promoted by the US administration. Though most US papers are said to be reporting the administration’s line uncritically, Hoyt reserves his admonishments for his own paper.

The UK press can rarely be accused of failing to challenge the government’s line, but it’s a long while since I saw any UK paper be so self-critical, Guardian included.

Written by Martin Moore

July 12th, 2007 at 12:38 pm

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US vs UK press journalism

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Reading the New York Times on my way back from the US yesterday I was struck again by how different our two journalistic cultures are. One aspires to distance while the other flirts with emotion. One prides itself on its objectivity, while the other flaunts its advocacy.
To get a better idea of the differences I compared yesterday’s NY Times front page with today’s Telegraph (the only popular quality daily still broadsheet and so, I figured, a fairer comparison).
The NYT has 6 major stories and 5 teasers (single paras leading to inside stories): 2 of the major stories are economic, 2 are political, 1 is social and 1 is international. The Telegraph has 6 major stories too (7 if you cound the photograph and three sentences about Madeleine McCann), although fewer words in each: 2 are economic, 1 historical, 2 social, and 1 fun.
But compare the headlines:
Economic: ‘Oil industry says biofuel push may keep gas prices higher’ (NYT) vs. ‘Households to face £30 fine if they fail to recycle rubbish’ (Telegraph). ‘Insurers in deal to pay billions at Ground Zero’ (NYT) vs. ‘Pensioners suffer as councils drive up fees for care at home’. The former written in a neutral tone, the latter written to provoke a response.
Dig a little deeper and the differences become even more apparent. The NY Times’ lead – the biofuels story, is 1,500 words long – 500 on the cover, 1,000 inside. It has more than 15 separate sourced facts (a conservative measure), substantial quotes from 9 different named sources, 2 data intensive graphics, and 3 photos.
The Telegraph’s lead (‘Judges call for divorce review after record £48m payout’) is about 600 words long, has 8 separate sourced facts, substantial quotes from 4 named sources, no graphics, and a photo of Mrs Charman (who has just been awarded £48m).
These are different types of stories but I’d be surprised if the numbers changed significantly on other topics.
There are downsides to the NYT approach. It can be heavier, more boring, and less liable to animate / annoy / distress / depress or inspire you. But, rather than leaving its news articles with an opinion, you do leave them feeling better able to form your own.

Written by Martin Moore

May 25th, 2007 at 2:54 pm

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