Friday, July 27, 2007

I Know Which "Times" I Prefer...

Dan Kennedy draws attention to the state of US cable news in the Guardian. UK television news is certainly much better than in the US, but when it comes to newspapers and magazines, in my view the best publications in the US are far better than their British counterparts.

These days UK newspapers - yes, even the "broadsheets" (for non-UK readers, these are the four "serious" newspapers, namely the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent) - contain little more than re-worded press releases plugging some product or another ("10 best stir-fry pans" etc.), or paraphrased versions of the Reuters wire. There is nothing remotely equivalent to the serious journalism you see in the New York Times. By this I mean pieces where the journalist makes the effort (and has the background) to understand the issues for herself, and then puts the evidence together into a coherent story.

The opinion pages are even worse. In the UK papers, opinion pieces are droll enough, but very rarely have the depth of the best of the New York Times or Washington Post's op-ed pages. I really can't imagine a serious economist like Paul Krugman having a regular column in the Times of London. Instead we get the likes of Boris Johnson: a funny enough writer, but a literate generalist with absolutely no expert knowledge of anything.

Finally, where are Britain's magazines? America has the superb New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, and the more mainstream Newsweek and Time (light, but readable enough). Germany has Der Spiegel and Stern. Leaving aside the Economist, which is a much more specialist outlet than any of the above, we have nothing comparable.

Thank heaven for BBC news...

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