On newspapers

For an American, trying to understand the nuances of the differences between British newspapers is mystifying at best. Several times on this blog people have made comments when I have linked a story from the Guardian. Several times I have seen people comment on links on Facebook, making fun of the person posting the link for linking from that particular newspaper. I actually broke down and asked a local friend to try to explain it to me, and she gave me a listing of some of the larger newspapers and what one could expect from them politically and who their typical readership would be. I found a similar listing online, and link it here for the benefit of anyone else who might be clueless. (Disappointingly there is a video linked in this which is “no longer available” and since I’ve stumbled on it three different times this morning, I’m sure it’s totally relevant and absolutely hilarious.) The topic of British paper politics is such a serious subject, that were you someone doing a PhD in Media Studies you might title your thesis “Political ideologies and identity in British newspaper discourse“. I loved this quote, from my googles this morning:

The British national newspapers are aligned with the various political factions in England. They make no pretence of objectivity. And, according to several landmark studies dating back to the 1950s, citizens find partisan information more politically useful than so-called objective information.

That’s right, “so-called objective information” … as in, um, the news? The idea that this is not useful in newspapers is more than slightly amusing to me. Regardless, there is no question that Brits read more newspapers than Americans. Americans get their shrill, OTT political news from other sources: magazines, blogs, partisan TV such as Fox News. Now I had not really realized it until I got into a little discussion with my politically-opposite family members this week, but I actually tend to stay away from partisan “news” in either the US or UK. I don’t read any UK news source as regularly as the BBC, and they are mandated to be politically neutral. I read American general newspapers (like the NY Times and my home town Minneapolis Star-Tribune on occasion) but not so much the blogs or websites with a clear political bent, with one exception (and for my family members, that one exception is pretty tame, apparently). I once listened to conservative radio in a rented car in the US for an entire day (it was on when I got in) and I was fascinated by it, but appalled at the same time. I just don’t want someone telling me what to think.

I’m not actually sure why my family members are such rabid fans of the political blogs and news sources while I am agnostic. Am I less politically involved than my family members? Yes, I suppose that’s a fair statement. Am I disconnected from politics due to my expat existence? Most definitely; I feel as though neither the American or British political scenes demand much of my attention since I can only vote the place I don’t live. But most importantly, be it radio, television, newspaper or blog, I prefer a neutral tone for the delivery of “news”. And for that reason, I will continue to seek out sources of information that are less politicized than the average British newspaper.

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11 responses to “On newspapers

  1. The Guardian is a fantastic paper.
    The Daily Mail is a right winged mess of a paper. It may as well have the headline “ARRRGH!!! DONT GO OUT!!!! THE GAYS AND MUSLIMS ARE COMING!!!”

  2. If you want politically neutral commentary, you would do well to stay well clear of the BBC which is blatently and notoriously left-wing and Labour-leaning. The Times was regarded as the most impartial of the dailies, but unfortunately was bought by Rupert Murdoch and is now not fit to wrap chips.

  3. What about The Independent? Don’t you think that one does at least try to be what its title says?

  4. Here’s the Yes Minister clip that you couldn’t see:

    (Still relevant except for the Morning Star, a Communist newspaper.)

  5. I read The Sun just for the tabloid trash. Yes I am shallow like that.

  6. Thanks for the link and the mention of my blog post! I didn’t know the video had stopped working. It appears the BBC had it removed then they uploaded it themselves and have disabled embedding. I’ll update my post. Again, thanks for the mention.

  7. Rimfire, I suspect I am on the opposite end of the political spectrum from you, and consequently feel that the BBC leans too much towards ‘the establishment’, conservatism, and the right wing. The fact that both ‘wings’ complain about its bias seems to suggest it’s getting its impartiality about right!

  8. Bias is, of course, subjective.

    Was the BBC right to describe two soldiers as having been murdered in Northern Ireland, and not to mention the religion of the two pizza delivery drivers seriously injured in the same attack?

  9. Howard, unfortunately I dont think I can agree with you on the subject of the Beeb. I think that they have a default position that I would categorise as ‘chattering class received wisdom’. Compare and contrast (as my old Eng Lit master used to say) their treatment of the two Damiens, O’Brien and Green. Look at how they treat Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson – I think its difficult to say they are even-handed, much as it grieves me to disagree with such a sensible chap!

  10. > such a sensible chap

    You are too kind, Rimfire! 🙂

    Don’t be too bothered about disagreeing with me, I beg you: it seems to me that it is through disagreement that humanity advances!

  11. Having read the blog entry you quote above, NFAH, I’m inclined to agree with the comment made by Glen in that blog. He quotes and says:

    ” ‘I believe one reason is because their press is partisan’

    ‘I prefer the American *ideal* of a watchdog press that is independent of government and, as much as possible, politics.’

    ‘Would we be better off with an openly partisan press?’

    You cannot be serious! I guess it’s hard to discern things in the dark.

    ‘I’d also argue that US journalism deludes itself in believing in its objectivity.’

    That’s much more like it.

    ‘I do believe that we are poorly served by the pretence of objectivity.’

    Even better. ”

    For a general article on bias in the American media, you might like to have a look at the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_bias_in_the_United_States .

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