I've only just been catching up with John Lloyd's thoughts on British journalism, published in the Guardian's media section. (Registration required.) Lloyd outlined similar arguments in his recent book. One point he makes this week is that UK journalists should aspire to the "excellence" of the American news media:

"There are many reasons for the excellence of the US news media, and some of the historical basis for its diversity and responsibility are to be found in Paul Starr's fine history, The Creation of the Media, which was published last year and commended in a Guardian column by Martin Kettle in May 2004. Now, however, it achieves the results it does because of the seriousness with which a significant part of the journalistic profession treats its trade. It is this - not the US, or any other, traditions which are not and cannot be our own - which we should emulate...

"...What also matters is that we in the trade of journalism in the UK take seriously that which we proclaim as our glory and our civic (as against our market) reason for existence: that of providing society with truthful accounts of its own workings, dilemmas and challenges. Unlike Shami Chakrabarti, I don't see anything either naive or sinister in seeking the truth of events, only in proclaiming one truth of their interpretation. It is, to be sure, probably impossible ever to get at a full truth of events, especially complex ones, through journalism. But if we don't take it as our task to try, what is the reason for our existence, other than to entertain - a noble calling, but one better left to entertainers, and not one requiring the privileges and the status which we demand as our own."

I don't suppose his assertion that America has "the best journalism in the world" will go down too well in the UK. Journalists here like to cling to the notion that they're streets ahead of their dull colonial cousins. But even if his argument doesn't apply across the board, I think Lloyd is right. Take the monthly and weekly magazine market, for instance: there's simply nothing in Britain to compare with, say, The Atlantic Monthly, Commentary or Harper's. And while the UK has a much broader, livelier range of national newspapers, you find a greater respect for old-fashioned facts in the US (even allowing for the exploits of Jayson Blair). We prefer cutting corners, which has its advantages, but gets a little dangerous after a while.

[Nb I've added a fuller quote from Lloyd's piece. The original posting lost some of the text.]
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