March 01, 2005

Not fit for a bird cage

I love to hate newspapers. The 'South Sweden Daily Paper' (Sydsvenska Dagbladet, is wonderful for this purpose. They do a great job of subverting the news in service of social-democratic ideology and the creative egos of their journalists. How do I hate this paper? Let me count the ways:

1. They employ a small harem of photographers to take pictures at strange angles, often deliberately out of focus. They get bonus points for taking a picture of something as a reflection using water or a pane of glass. They put a graphic picture of open heart surgery on the front page (goes great with breakfast!), and last week a nice photo of a phallic snowman some students had built.

2. They choose the most obscure things to put on the front page, and the stories are always told from a strange viewpoint. Today's headline 'above the fold' was that 142 people (many of them young families) had moved from Lund to Kaevlinge in the past year. ('So!?' ) Another story was the impact of the new regional train schedule on a single person, a doctor, who would get 10 minutes less time with her family in the morning. The American ideal of objective reporting, often achieved by interviewing representatives of two sides of an issue, is nowhere to be seen. (As long as I'm ranting, this journalistic method can also be annoying-- whatever happened to analysis of issues as provided e.g. by the BBC? Can and should every issue be divided into 'pro' and 'con'? Many times there are David and Goliath issues where this style of reporting elevates a single crank to the same status as the entire National Academy of Sciences...)

3. The most grievous sin of the paper is their weather reporting, if you can call it that. I read the weather report and I am only a little wiser than when I started. Take today-- according to the Danish weather service we are in for at least a foot of wet snow, falling temperature, strong winds out of the northeast, drifting snow, a wild ride. Does Sydsvenskan expect their readers to understand all that based on a tiny diagram of a fluffy cloud and three snowflakes and a predicted high temperature of 0 degrees Celcius!?

4. You never know where to find anything. The Sunday comics (a single page-- Ernie, Dagwood and Calvin, that's it) could be buried anywhere from page A32 to D17. Likewise, the weather forecase and letters to the editor keep moving around.

The only saving grace of the paper is their political editor, Per T. Ohlsson. He is a pillar of common sense and liberal (in its historical/(traditional meaning) values concerning America and Sweden. An enlightened critic of the current regime (the Swedish Social Democrats have been in power for 60 of the last 70 years), 'Per T' has been a lighthouse for me during the last four years because he understands and is able to explain American politics to the Swedes. Another day I may tell you about another paper I loved to hate, the Los Angeles Times, and about the time we got rear-ended by none other than Per T. Ohlsson.


At March 01, 2005 11:32 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

I love hearing about how foriegners think or talk about our country. Post a sample!

Did you get a chance to tell Per T. how much you liked his stuff after the accident? Did you tell him he had a Per T. mouth?

At March 01, 2005 8:45 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Folks in the old world tend to view America with suspicion. Here is an example from Sydsvenskan from September 2004:

Three park benches were stolen from the eastern cemetary in Malmö. The benches were designed by the architect Folke Bensow in the early 20th century and are worth about $5000. 'The benches weigh about 300 pounds each and were anchored into the ground by steel posts. The thieves must have worked very hard to remove them' said Sven Gullstrand. He continues, 'I suspect that they were sold to America.'


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