I have to hand it to the staff of the British tabloid, The Sun. They sure know how to come up with an attention-grabber.
If you are not familiar with the newspaper, it's very much like our tabloids, The National Inquirer, and such, but the British publication has something that only Playboy or Penthouse magazines would have over here -- the semi-nude "Page 3 Girl."
I purchased a copy of The Sun in a London airport this past summer. It cost 20 pence, which is $0.32 in American currency, so I figured, why not? Well, imagine my surprise when I opened it and the first thing I see is a picture of a woman wearing nothing from the waist up, and making no effort to cover any part of her body. Her body, below the waist, was only slightly more concealed.
That's about the point where it finally sunk in. The basics of journalism may be, by-and-large, the same amongst most publications around the world. You're still going to find the "Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?" that are essential to good journalism in publications such as The Times, the London Evening Standard, The Irish Times, and Le Monde.
But, different cultures have different ways of dressing up their news. One thing I noticed in Great Britain, for example, was that the actions of celebrities are treated as key, hard news stories. I happened to be in London when English soccer star, Stephen Gerrard, and pop singer, Amy Winehouse, were on trial for separate, alleged assaults on women.
Several newspapers ran front page stories about the trails almost daily.
The London Evening Standard advertising boards, almost every day, teased a headline from either the Gerrard, or the Winehouse trials. This is the kind of stuff that would be treated with minor interest over here. While it was front page stuff over there, it probably would have been buried deep in a newspaper, if it happened here, to an American athlete.
One of the only things that usurped the Gerrard and Whinehouse trials was the news that 100,000 United Kingdom residents reported to a government health web site that they believed they had the H1N1 flu, simply known as Swine Flu. The Daily Telegraph, which touts itself as "Britain's best-selling quality daily," ran a great picture for that story -- a boy walking past Big Ben while wearing a surgical mask.
Leave it to Swine Flu to be capable of usurping the celebrities in the news.
Then, America was all over the major French newspaper, Le Monde. For two consecutive days, Le Monde's above-the-fold lead stories dealt with the economy in America. One day, the anchor story was about Bruce Springsteen.
And when I got to Ireland, all of the newspapers were wider than American newspapers have been in years. When they are folded, they are 15 inches in width, meaning they have a wingspan of 30 inches, or almost three feet, when they are opened up. Meanwhile, here in America, a lot of newspapers that you come across are maybe 22 inches, to 25 inches, when they are unfolded.
The Irish Times could just swallow our papers up in a sea of newsprint and ink. Of course, the sticker price on the issue of The Irish Times that I bought was $2.95 in American currency. Still, in terms of content, The Irish Times, and other Irish newspapers, were the closest things I found to American journalism, in terms of the main stories being about topics such as government, business and local community issues.
There were no pictures of Amy Winehouse puffing cigarettes outside a courthouse, or nearly-naked women flaunting what they've got.
Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.