May 25, 2014
The downfall of American journalists
It ought to be a matter of deep shame that the most popular news website in the United States is the U.K. Daily Mail. And the fact that so many top editors and journalists in the United States happen to be from Britain is something that ought to disturb all those professors of journalism at elite schools like Columbia. You know, the ones that hand out big prizes like the Pulitzer, touting how wonderful our journalists are.
Strangely enough, with all the university and foundation resources available for conferences, commissions, studies, and the like, nobody seems much interested in this embarrassing situation. There’s a good reason for that.
Toby Young, a Brit journalist who has worked in the United States has a wonderful short article in the UK Spectator (hat tip: Hot Air), explaining why it is that British journalists are simply much better than their American counterparts, on the whole. And I think he has nailed it. You should really read the whole thing because it won’t take very long and is very amusing. But here are a couple of key paragraphs:
You can get a sense of what American journalists’ priorities are from looking at a 96-page report that the New York Times has just produced about… theNew York Times. I’m not talking about the words, obviously, which are far too boring to read, but the pictures. On page three of the report, there’s a photograph of the paper’s top brass gathered around a computer terminal, having just discovered that the Grey Lady has won yet another Pulitzer prize. The staff are gathered around them on the stairs — hundreds of them — and one of the editors is looking up and humbly applauding them: ‘Well done, folks. You knocked it out of the park… again.’
That’s what most American journalists care about — winning prizes that affirm just what noble tribunes of democracy they are. In Britain, we have less lofty ambitions. For us, it’s all about selling newspapers and — pathetic hacks that we are — producing stories that people actually want to read. Our Yankee counterparts preen about, congratulating themselves on upholding the highest ideals of the fourth estate, whereas we focus on the bottom line and pride ourselves on keeping our papers afloat. For them, it’s a profession and its members are expected to observe a highfalutin code of professional conduct. For us, it’s a trade and, to be honest, it’s more about not getting caught.
Pretension, elitism, and purported professionalism have served to alienate American journalists from their public.
Read then whole thing. You will thank me.