Consider the Source

I’m a British news convert.  I’ve always read the news, whether in print format or online – but I’ve noticed a difference in presentation, so I tend to stick to British sources now, rather than US papers and websites.  I suppose that’s partly due to my location, but in this digital age there’s nothing stopping me from clicking over to CNN more often or even Fox (sure, that’ll happen).  Televised British news seems so much less sensationalist and so much more impartial – It’s still more about the News and less about vicarious horror-tainment or getting your Five-Minute-Hate going.  If I wanted that I’d read Stephen King or George Orwell.  The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is my personal preference if I’m on the net or if I’m watching the Evening News.  But I think even ITV and Channel 4 are reasonably impartial in their reporting.

I remember when I first moved to the UK, how I was struck by the absence of a constant single-story feeding frenzy.  In the US, if there’s a huge news story, it’ll be televised on all the channels, most of the time, regurgitated and re-analyzed, ad nauseam, until the public is thoroughly desensitized to the original, often tragic, event.  I have not seen this happen in the UK since I’ve lived here, and certainly hope that this abstinence from repetition continues.

Most Americans are familiar with the BBC, or the Beeb, as it’s sometimes fondly called.  But they may not be as familiar with British newspapers – I wasn’t before I moved to the UK.  So I’ve decided to post a run-down of the major British newspapers and tabloids.  This list is not at all exhaustive.  I’m sure I’ll offend the Scots and Welsh and Irish among you by completely omitting your regional papers.  Not to mention the Northerners who might read the Manchester Evening News.  But I know even less about these publications than I do about the ones I’ve listed below… and the list was getting way too long anyway!  How much do you expect me to write on this topic?!

There are also a plethora of local newspapers in Britain, some of which have been around a very long time.  These can be invaluable for local historians and genealogists.  Usually, local libraries hold copies of these on microfilm.  Yet another reason it’s important for libraries to remain open.

In the UK it is customary to pay a visit to your local Newsagent to buy a newspaper, along with your Jelly Babies, and Yorkie and Dairy Milk bars.  If you want a paper delivered to your door, you’d also go through the neighbourhood Newsagent, who’d take care of the daily delivery.  I am told that this service is becoming more rare – which maybe doesn’t bode well for the newspaper business.  People are lazy.  If they don’t have papers delivered to their doors, they will use the internet and television to get their news.  Heck, I do.  On the up side, I never get pestered to take out newspaper subscriptions, like I did in the States.

Again, I’m going to focus on major newspapers and Tabloids here – ones available in print – not just online.  And I’ll avoid mention of glossies/magazines, such as the venerable Economist.  Oops – I just did.  Print media has had a tough time all over in the last several years, but is still hanging on in the UK.  Newspapers and tabloids are National Institutions – like so many other things in Britain.  The British seem to love their scandals and rows, which give the papers plenty to be outraged about.

Of course every source has its own angle and political leanings.  Using immigration as an example, here is my take on what those leanings might be:

The Guardian: Immigrants have rights, and here is all the data supporting that, so that you can intelligently decide that Polish builders and people of colour are probably no threat to you, and we can all live in harmony in this Great multicultural nation.

The Times: Immigration policy should change; the government does its best to make sure this is an equal-opportunity country for all, but it’s a crowded little island and people should stop coming here.  We have faith that a cooler head will prevail; but we would prefer it if the Cool Head were a Conservative.

The Financial Times: Immigrants are probably detrimental to the country’s economy; or maybe they’re more profitable than we think.  We will analyse and editorialize this for you on pink paper.

The Telegraph: We are benevolent towards the immigrants who bring valuable services to our country.  But enough’s enough.  Now we should consider immigration quotas and maybe the immigrants already here should all go home.  Perhaps we can deport them.

The Independent: All this talk about immigrants taking your jobs is scare-mongering.  Immigrants bring money and skills, and are not responsible for all the terrible stuff for which they’re blamed.  Still, immigration reform is an important issue.

The Evening Standard: We will tell you that immigrants might be taking your jobs, and do it in a cost-free, London-cenric way.

The Daily Mail: We will all be murdered in our beds, and it will most likely be an immigrant who wields the cleaver.  Furthermore, government incompetence is responsible for this butchery.

The Daily Express: Immigrants are taking your jobs, many of them are Muslim, and it is the EU’s fault.  Foreigners generally shouldn’t be trusted anyway.

The Metro: Here’s a story about an immigrant who saved a pedestrian who was about to be run over.  But we know you don’t have much time to read it, because you’re using public transport, so we’ll keep it short.

The Daily Mirror: It is possible that immigrants are taking your jobs, but Labour leadership will do better than the Tories at preventing this.  Anyway, wouldn’t you rather read about footballers and celebrities?

The Daily Star: Immigrants are taking your jobs, but to console you, here are some naked girls in full colour!

The Sun: Immigrants are taking your jobs, but more importantly, there’s a girl with big tits on Page Three!

It can be both fun and educational to read from a source that’s different to what you might be used to.  We have the advantage of speaking a language that is used all over the world to relay a myriad of opinions and ideas.  Why just read or listen to American (or insert any other nationality here) news?  Isn’t that a bit ethnocentric or nationalistic?  Or at times even xenophobic?

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8 Comments

Filed under News and Media

8 responses to “Consider the Source

  1. This is great! Welcome to the blogosphere!

  2. tracktops

    I used to read The Guardian from time to time (supposed to be left leaning) but it didn’t take me long to get sick of the misrepresentations, nonsense and mystification it spew out. The majority of the other papers you mention would mostly likely make me want to vomit. I tend to come across The Sun or Daily Mail from time to time (in pubs etc) and they are both unreadable for their banality and putred reactionary dirge. I find news is best from the source so I check the news forum on libcom.org quite regularly where people from or close to events all around the world comment and discuss things from largely a class based perspective. I’m not sure about the “venerable” Economist, last I read they were blaming everything that was going on in Kyrgyzstan on Stalin (rising from the grave?). To me this was pretty standard mystification along with others blaming ‘acient ethinic tensions’. What all these publications of course didn’t report was the class nature or composition of the events, their revolutionary elements or the para-state /ex-state factions and gangsters and their real involvement in what happened…as per usual. marxists.com is also a good source for news around the world but a little heavy on rhetoric and ideology, more so than libcom which is a shame.

    • I have to agree with your assessments of The Sun and Daily Mail. I, too, read the Guardian for a time. I’d still say that out of the above list it would be the one I’d reach for first. It is liberal-leaning, but not nearly as leftist as you, it seems! I choose not to read the majority of these publications. As far as the Economist goes, I used to flip through it semi-regularly when at uni. Whether one agrees with its politics or not, I think it’s an important publication. I will check out your recommendations. Never hurts to widen one’s horizons.

  3. tracktops

    I meant to add something about the BBC before. I’m surprised you favour the BBC over channel 4, there’s a lot less bias and establishment rhetoric and associated bile. Though Channel 4 is obviously still a bourgeois entity. Not because workers don’t work for the channel, they do. But because as well as the BBC they serve the interests of that class and present their product for consumption on that terrain. The BBC for good reason is sometime referred to as “The Voice of British Imperialism” – by workers all over the world. Perhaps somewhat of a ‘liberal’ example but the BBC during the latest Gaza holocaust in 2009 refused to air the DEC Gaza appeal. Channel 4 did. It helped eventually raise many millions for the suffering of that particular episode of capitalist barbarism. Having said this the BBC compared to what you have probably been subjected to in North America is probably pretty decent against a news industry which pretty much sees everything to the left of Mussolini as communist and evil!!!111 in that infantile manner which seems to have been perfected by the likes of Glenn Beck and co. Best to avoid the lot of it if you ask me, it can only reinforce the existing ideas which in every epoch are the ideas of the ruling class. The ICC (International Communist Current) publish a sheet regarding North America called Internationalism. You can read copies of it here for free: http://en.internationalism.org/booktree/3470

    There are also quite a few American on the Libcom.org/forum which I mentioned before who give a more rationale and sometimes genuinely radical perspective on news and ‘current affairs’.

    Looking forward to some new posts on your blog, when I feel up for it I may delve into something a bit more interesting and ‘serious’… or I might just press the delete button, whichever way you approach blogs they generally seem to end up quite narcissistic and largely pointless.

    • Hello again, Mr. Tops. I don’t think you should be surprised at all that I prefer the BBC as one of my news sources. I consider myself a relatively mainstream person as far as politics and social movements are concerned. Although, recently, I was called a ‘radical’ by (an American) someone in a venue unrelated to this blog. I responded that the true radicals out there would probably laugh, but that I was honored to be labelled as such. Make no mistake, I *do* enjoy Channel 4’s news coverage – Jon Snow’s ties are fantastic! 🙂 But really, I think that some of the grilling the Channel 4 news presenters give to various political and social movement representatives (to be vague) is amazing. They really do ask some hard questions. This type of dialogue in the UK, in my opinion, is not only far superior to what you see in the mainstream US network News, but is also a more intellectual and articulate approach to delivering the news.

      I read a Tea Party commentary on the Internationalism site. Fascinating stuff… the perspective took me back to some university years. I can’t disagree with much of it, really. But then, I am a radical. 😉 I’m sure that Tea Party members would think I was evil, or perhaps an enemy of the State (ironic) just for reading the stuff. But I wouldn’t like to engage in a political or ideological debate in this particular thread or forum. Perhaps another time.

      Maybe blogs can be a bit narcissistic; that is probably why I hesitated to write one for such a long period of time. My purpose here is to maintain a sort of UK-US comparative culture site, to the best of my ability, but it will necessarily be written from a very personal angle. I hope to appeal to those who are genuinely interested in what I have to say. I chose to do this in the blogosphere because, while I consider myself to be articulate, and at times even halfway eloquent, I am not so egotistical to believe that I am the next Bill Bryson, or that anyone would chose to publish my work in a far more lucrative format. Perhaps that will change one day; I would welcome it, but I won’t hold my breath.

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