Friday, November 18, 2011

The Guardian puts down roots in the U.S. and stakes its claim: OWS story provides contrast to rest of NYC media

It might come as a shocking idea to some newspaper readers and some journalists that there are those out there who don't see the New York Times as a friend of liberals and progressives. Despite being seen by some as the poster child for "the liberal media", the NYT has in the past decade supported the Iraq War, and taken other positions that have not sat well with the left.

No wonder then that The Guardian, who again are attempting to enter the U.S. market, has chosen to use the current Occupy Wall Street movement as a point of differentiation with the NYT. Yesterday the British owned website ran a live blog on the protests that took place around the Stock Exchange and then at Foley Park, leading to the Brooklyn Bridge.
In many cities around the U.S., protesters were on the streets yesterday: in addition to NYC, protests and arrests occurred in Boston, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Seattle, San Francisco, etc. In NYC, the major papers lined up solidly behind Mayor Bloomberg with both the the Post and Daily News running editorials praising the ousting of protesters from Zuccotti Park.

But the NYT tried to have it both ways with an embarrassing editorial that supported the actions of the mayor's office while also wondering if "there was a better, less-disruptive way to get demonstrators to deal with problems cited by the city and the park’s owner, Brookfield Office Properties."

Enter The Guardian, which has clearly seen the OWS protests as a way of contrasting sharply with its more established competitors. For past two days the story has been the website's lead story, with the picture of the bloodied protester prominently displayed.

Interestingly, the story not considered the lead in the U.K. version of The Guardian. In the same position of the the OWS story in the U.S. edition is now an "Interactive Christmas gift guide". Rarely have the two websites differed so starkly since the establishment of the U.S. news site.

Another interesting contrast is the total lack of comments in the U.S. edition. (Are they completely turned off in the U.E. edition? It looks that way. Only stories that point back to the U.K. site seem to have comments attached to them.)

While the story about London protests has almost 500 comments on it as of the time I am writing this post, the U.S. edition of the Guardian apparently does not allow for comments.

The editors of the U.S. website for The Guardian are obviously still experimenting: is the site an extension of the U.K site and aimed at expats in the U.S., or aimed squarely at an American audience? (Many of the stories on the U.S. edition, when clicked, will lead the reader to the U.K. url where the stories originated.)

As for the NYT, they are clearly throwing resources at the OWS story as evidenced by the articles and photo galleries found on the website. But their editorial choices of burying the story inside are speaking volumes about their editorial position vis a vis the protesters. At a time when the NYT is promoting its digital offerings, it is ironic, I suppose, that they now face a new digital-only competitor, and one with a strong inclination to keep their offerings free of charge. It will be interesting to see if The Guardian influences editorial choices at the NYT, or whether they will consider the new competitor merely an annoyance.

Most journalists don't need to be told that when it comes to things like protests, social media has them at a distinct disadvantage. Yesterday's protests around the country were a great example of how social media such as Twitter and Facebook are a more efficient way of distributing information than any kind of traditional media can be – even news websites.

The UStream video channel for TheOther99 (at right), as an example, streamed live video (one shaky camera) throughout the afternoon, gather upwards of 25,000 viewers at any given time.

Even The Guardian's live blog seemed to terribly insufficient, posting stories about once every half hour, it seemed that the mainstream media was merely another consumer of the news coming from those on the ground reporting using social media.