Friday, 18 July 2008

Non-American Columnists - Would the NYT allow it?

In response to my previous posting on American Exceptionalism, a Think! reader wrote to me, with this to say:

"The IHT needs to find its own voice, and it can do that AND still be the global edition of the NYT. Lord knows, the NYT could benefit from some non-American columnists itself."

Excellent point -- but will the Times allow it?

That is the fundamental strategic question as regards how the owners and publisher of the IHT see the International Herald Tribune.

Is the purpose of the global edition of the NYT to project American/NYT voices and opinions internationally, or is it to become what was once referred to as 'the world's daily newspaper', treating the U.S.A as any other country it covers.

Cost-wise, the columnists and editorial run in the IHT also appear in the NYT. So is the decision being led by that consideration, viz. this is the content we've bought and paid for, let's use it in the IHT, rather than a deliberate editorial decision, viz. what we are doing here is deliberately projecting American voices and opinions internationally.

If cost is the motivation, it's a strange way to run a newspaper. Not much different from an in-house aggregator.

If projecting American voices internationally is the goal, isn't that the job of the State Department/CIA/Voice of America? Certainly not the job of an independent newspaper.

If the motivation is indeed to project the voices of Americans and opinions of the NYT editorial board, then that's a cause for concern.

In today's globalized information world, in today's globalized world, what is the rationale for the leading American newspaper of record ONLY to engage Americans as columnists and editorial writers, even if it were just for domestic consumption in the U.S.A, and irrespective of the IHT?

Aren't NYT readers, let alone IHT readers, being somewhat short-changed in terms of the perspectives they are continually served up (American only, as far as columnists and editorials; largely American, as regards opinion page contributors)?

Most national newspapers are basically parochial, and being parochial (as a business) in today's world is the fast-track to going out of business. Because parochialism simply isn't relevant anymore.

I once did a study on the nationality of contributors to the opinion pages of the IHT (columnists excluded) and to that of its primary competitors - the FT and the WSJ. As much as I regret to report this, if you want more international opinion, you'd be better off reading one of those two newspapers.

And with the WSJ now owned by Murdoch, he can use the cost-led in-house aggregator model to get opinion pieces from the UK and Australia, to name just two countries.

Whatever the reasons for the dominant American perspectives (of differing shades, admittedly) this issue needs to be addressed and be understood internally, and by readers: why is there so much American editorial and opinion; why doesn't or couldn't the IHT have its own editorial board based out of Paris?

The IHT are happy to serve up Boston Globe editorials, but failed, even at the height of the so-called success of its 'publishing partnerships' to run editorials from newspapers it deemed worthy of publishing with in Europe and Asia.

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