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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One Response to 'US vs UK press journalism'

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  1. No contest.

    Adrian Monck

    28 May 07 at 9:33 pm

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