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Sept. 17, 2009, 10 a.m.

Shane Richmond: At the Telegraph, journalists are engaging with readers

[Our sister publication Nieman Reports is out with its latest issue, and its focus is the impact of social media on journalism. There are lots of interesting articles, and we’ll be highlighting a few here over the next few days. Here’s a piece by Shane Richmond of The Daily Telegraph about how engagement with the audience has changed their journalism. —Josh]

In an episode of the 1980’s BBC comedy series “Yes, Prime Minister,” Jim Hacker described the readers of Britain’s various newspapers: “The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The [London] Times is read by the people who actually do run the country; The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; The Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.”

His cabinet secretary asks: “Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?” Before the prime minister can answer, his private secretary, Bernard, chips in: “Sun readers don’t care who runs the country, as long as she’s got big tits.”

Though played for laughs, Britons will hear a ring of truth in Hacker’s analysis. In Britain, the newspaper people read can say a lot about their political views, social class, and background. Describing someone as a Sun reader implies certain things about them that are very different from the assumptions one would make about a Mail reader or a Guardian reader.

Those distinctions are becoming blurred online. The habit of reading a single newspaper was largely formed by practical concerns: It’s expensive to buy more than one, and they must be carried around with you. On the Web, someone can read several newspapers, and we know that plenty of people do, dipping in and out of different ones through the day. If they prefer the political coverage of the Guardian, the sports coverage of the Telegraph, and the financial coverage of The (London) Times, they can now read all three without having to buy them or carry them around.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

POSTED     Sept. 17, 2009, 10 a.m.
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