US and UK journalism compared

I’ve picked up on a few articles comparing journalism in the USA and UK — partly because of talks I’m giving to journalism students from US universities this summer.

“Superiority Complex — Why the Brits think they’re better” is the headline on an article in the current Columbia Journalism Review. It reiterates claims that interviewers from the UK have the edge in broadcast news, and discusses the appeal of UK newspapers’ websites and BBC World to readers and viewers in the States.

When it comes to newspapers, is the boot on the other foot? It does for sourcing, balance, overall reliability and investigations, suggests Susan Hansen’s CJR piece, quoting Alan Rusbridger (The Guardian), Bill Hagerty (British Journalism Review), and Tom Fenton (CBS).

Martin Moore contrasts the approach of stories in the Daily Telegraph and New York Times, highlighting the greater length, more neutral tone, larger number of sources and quotes etc in the latter. It also risks being heavier, more boring and less engaging, he notes.

There may be less space for longer stories in the New York Times after it changes format. Executive editor Bill Keller says, according to Gawker:

Our stories are too often too long… The 1200 word stories could be 800 or 900. There are editors at a Page 1 meeting boasting that a story is only 1400 words.

Also worth noting is Keller’s frank statement about the NY Times’ online strategy for developing revenue from its web contact: “There’s a phrase they use in drug and alcohol rehab—’fake it til you make it.’ That’s basically what we’re doing.”

Finally, still at the NY Times, Investigations Editor Matthew Purdy says they have “12 permanent reporters and editors” plus “many more Times reporters engaged in investigative or in-depth reporting”. Another US-UK difference to add to the list, then.

Re-read for accuracy, grammar and spelling

It’s tempting to think the Evening Standard was aiming at irony with this billboard. But that would be too subtle a strategy to succeed, I suspect — and a limited readership (although perhaps under-targeted…)
‘Grammer School’ billboard, Evening Standard
The same error in The Times Online was corrected — but only after it had been published on the site and started to show in news feeds, as Adrian Monck noted. It did appear online in that form on The Times Online, as Google’s cache showed for a while:
‘Grammer school’ headline Times Online
The corrected headline then appears to have replaced the previous version in Google’s cache, too — although a reference to it lives on in one of the ‘Have your say’ comments from a reader, referring to the uncorrected headline:

“Tory resigns after grammer school row” — such a headline in the Times is a case against comprehensives.
Dagmar Alpen, Cologne, Germany

Confusing the readers: divergent stories from the same source

Daily Mail and Express front pages: house price stories

Confusing if they see the front pages of the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, that is. Choose between “Is the house price boom over?” and “House prices still soaring” respectively.

These are going in my file of possible examples to look at with students — at first glance, the stories look contradictory. On closer inspection, it’s a matter of emphasis, both using Land Registry figures in different ways: the Mail story concentrates on those for the month of April, while the Express piece looks at the annual increase.

Both angles were fairly clear in the Land Registry source document (PDF here), although the annual 9.1% increase was flagged up more prominently.

One aspect of stories that students sometimes find tricky to pick up, at least to start with, is how a chosen angle might play with readers. Here it’s “welcome news for homeowners” (Express) or “end of the 11-year property boom […] alarm bells sounded […] bubble appears to be bursting […] situation now is likely to be even worse” (Mail).