RealClearPolitics Media Watch

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Brit Stiff Upper Lip Might Do Yank Papers Good

The day after all those midterm primaries that certainly, probably, might be a harbinger of things to come in November, it's nice (and a little odd) that you showed up at a site with 'politics' in its name to read about the media.

Since you stumbled in here, though, I'll serve a light offering today, so that you can get back to the real work of digesting all that political red meat. This is also my sheepish way of admitting that I did not see how the media handled its coverage of the all-important primaries.

Truth is, I've been traveling in the United Kingdom the past week or so, where something called Eyjafjallajokul (Icelandic for 'not so fast, pal') still reeks havoc on air travel, and a little election there has produced its own brand of volcanic smoke and mirrors.

Oh, and a bit of breaking political news for your trouble: I have determined that newly minted Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg are, in fact, the same person. If you take a look at these blokes, I wager it is impossible to tell them apart. Their oddball political coupling should make it only harder to separate them in the future.

Before you head out of here to see what happens next in Pennsylvania, I'll implore the newly retired Arlen Specter to address the golf ball from either the left or right side and just stick with it, and use this media space to make a few informal observations about the newspaper industry in the home of our former landlords.

The good news, selfishly, is that newspapers continue to survive in the UK, and are pretty much a staple of daily life in the old place.

Newspapers are everywhere and still seem to be viewed as the definitive go-to place for news.

As they have for decades, BBC newsreaders rifle through the various national papers each morning so that they might give their viewers a primer of the news they should be paying attention to.

The deference paid to newspapers is heartening, but one wonders how long it can go on -- even in a country that to this day, makes such a big deal out of its kings and queens.

Circulation, while not falling at the break-neck pace of American papers, is, in fact, declining. Interestingly, though, the fall is hardly the attention-grabber it is in the States, where people like me make a big deal out of it weekly.

I asked informally about the potential demise of papers at my various stops (pubs) in Northeast England, and not a single person seemed to feel as if newspapers were in any sort of a crisis. Folks did admit to finding more and more of their news online, but viewed the Internet as more of a supplement, not a replacement, for newspapers.

Maybe this is because, by and large, newspapers are much more lively in the UK. Headlines are crisper and wittier, and there is considerably more use of points of entry (graphics, photos, charts, etc.) to lure readers onto the pages.

I should also say that most of them are not shy about positioning the occasional bikini-clad bombshell on the odd page to slow the male reader down a bit, while speeding up his heart. I noticed they are also distributing the eye candy to their female readers with a bit more frequency these days.

Generally, the writing and reporting on the harder news is shorter and more to the point than you might find in a stateside newspaper, while the columnists have a tendency to write way too long. Of course, many of the better opinion writers type like they talk, so it's not fair to ask them to be shy with their gab in prose, especially since it might be properly influenced by a pint or two.

If you are a regular on this site, you'll most likely know that newspapers on the big island are also embarrassingly partisan in their reporting. To which I predict you are now mumbling to yourself, "Ours are, too. If only they'd admit it ..."

And you don't think I know my readership ...

No, newspapers still seem to have a place in the UK, and aren't being treated with the disregard they are in the States.

Still, I left England wondering if the tsunami was yet to come for the newspapers there, or if the problems with the industry in the States, and how they are being mishandled are even more isolated than I have come to believe.

As I've noted before, our friends to the north in Canada seem to be finding newspapers much more frequently than we are. I type this from Germany, where I can confirm that newspapers are everywhere, and still considered vital.

Maybe there is still hope for newspapers in the States, or maybe they really do find themselves in an inhospitable climate that is unfit to print.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)