Sometimes I think it would be nice if American newspapers were more European. Putting all the ethical questions aside, the recent kerfuffle over News of the World in London casts images in my mind of the great newspaper wars of old.
European newspapers just seem more exciting than their stodgy American counterparts.
They’re frequently better designed. European newspaper designers seem to have caught onto the importance of color, imagery and typography faster than many of their U.S. peers. (Although, this side of the Atlantic can still claim at least a small piece of the 2011 World’s Best-Designed newspaper since the then-art director of Portugal’s “i” newspaper is American – and a Michigan State alum and former colleague of mine at The State News.)
Their tabloid size (yes, tabloid is a legitimate publication size, not simply a category of trashy supermarket weeklies – which, too, are tabloid in size) makes them easier to hold and allows them to more readily focus on an important cover story – like a magazine. So you often get exciting photography and great, big “GOTCHA”-style headlines.
And, frankly, it’s fun to hear about a newspaper battle. In the United States, there are so few cities with strong newspaper rivalries. The News and Free Press share business operations and a building in Detroit. The Chicago Tribune is taking over printing of the Sun-Times. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News are owned by the same company. Yawn.
Of course, this is clearly one of those scenarios where the grass looks greener on the other side of the ocean.
European newspapers face circulation declines too – as do newspapers pretty much anywhere there are educated populations with access to high-speed Internet, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. The center’s “State of the News Media” report found that newspaper revenue in the United Kingdom dropped 21 percent from 2007 to 2009. Circulation across the continent dropped 5.6 percent in 2009 from the previous year.
Enough with facts, though. It’s nice to dream.