Thursday, 29 May 2008

International Herald Tribune and the U.K

O.K, so Nepal is covered from New Dehli/Calcutta depending on which edition of the IHT you look at, but England from Paris?

The IHT has a serious problem regarding the U.K, because of all European countries, it is perhaps the U.K where it is most behind the news wave. Sara Lyall of the NYT does wonderfully funny and incisive pieces off the news on stories that have been very on the news in the U.K, often weeks after those events have passed. For example, the recent publication of the governments UFO files was big news in the UK two weeks ago or more. Sara Lyall covered the same story as if it was yesterday, yesterday, and the IHT put that on their front page.

Today we have Alan Cowell covering Gordon Brown's comments in yesterday's Guardian about the last oil shock, from Paris.

This endless catch up the IHT's editors play with the U.K probably goes quite unremarked by non -U.K residents of the IHT, but for anyone who lives there, or who happened to have been in the U.K a couple of weeks ago as I was and saw the UFO story in the UK press then - played in the IHT as if it were yesterday - then it's extremely annoying and endlessly behind the news.

Given that of all the countries in Europe where there is perhaps the most dissatisfaction in many circles about the quality of the UK broadsheets (see a book called Flat Earth News by Nick Davies if you want to see the crap the UK public are regularly served up) then it seems strange that not only does the IHT push for a circulation of, let's say, 100,000 there which they could easily obtain if they put their mind to it, but they can't find a good way to cover it on a daily basis.

There used to be an IHT London correspondent but I think he got cut.

So now we rely on wire copy rewrite from Paris (48 hours minimum behind the news) and Sara's pieces (anything between 2 and 3 weeks behind the news). Hardly going to win 100,000 readers.

But France, arguably a less important country, especially given the importance of the city of London and the U.K's role in Iraq and Afghanistan, is covered as if, well, a lot it's readers live there.

They don't but France is the country with the highest IHT circulation....and where most of the IHT's journalistic and editorial and copy staff live.

I remember the infamous quote from a senior IHT editor, on being posed the question 'who does he think he writes the paper for?' - was it me who posed that question? - replying: 'Well, for people like me.'

Which meant, in this and most cases: American, late 40s, early 50s, male, white, expat in France, journalist, with poor to non existent French.

Requiring, naturally, news about France.

P.S Alan Cowell in the European four star edition of today was bylined as being in Paris, for his piece on Gordon Brown on the third oil shock. By the time his piece hit the web today, no he hadn't moved to Calcutta. He just had no byline at all. He is reporting England from, well, the internet I suppose?

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