Labour leadership vote, just ended, gets sparse coverage in the US; Times launches digital edition for Ireland
Morning Brief: NYT executive editor defends his own minimal use of social media; more US library systems look to add digital magazines to replace print editions, while Wales looks giving everyone a library card
The voting has closed in the Labour Party leadership election. If you are reading this in the UK you know this, but here in the States there has been practically no coverage at all. That will change if the results are as expected, and Jeremy Corbyn wins the election. Then US newspapers will be scrambling to explain exactly what this means and try to let their readers catch up.
A search of The New York Times finds that the only recent mention of Jeremy Corbyn, who is running to the far left of other candidates, has come in a couple opinion pieces from David Brooks and Paul Krugman. Steve Erlanger is the London bureau chief but his last report mentioning Jeremy Corbyn concerned his comments on the death of Osama bin Laden. Another story a month earlier did mention Corbyn’s rise in popularity – so it is possible the fault here lies with editors in New York who consider the story too far afield to interest US readers. (Last week The Washignton Post ran an AP story headlined 60-something socialist is Britain’s unlikely political star which provided the Post’s readers with some background – the story generated no comments at all.)
The voting took place via mail-in ballots and ended today at noon (London time). The results are due to be announced on Saturday.
For those not following the election, briefly this is what you need to know: has been the Member of Parliament for Islington North since 1983 and is running to be leader of the Labour Party. He is considered more left wing than other candidates, an opponent of the Iraq War, a strong supporter of the welfare state and anti-austerity, and is the one candidate the others fear most because is he is drawing support from an enthusiastic part of the party. He may also be drawing conservative support who see him as potentially damaging to Labour. Think Bernie Sanders and imagine Sanders winning the Democratic nomination. (Sanders is 74, while Corbyn is 66.)
But the story is more nuanced than that and there are strong opinions across the spectrum of politics in the UK. But it is potentially big news if he wins, and potentially big news if he doesn’t (because many will wonder about the legitimacy of the election). The story is even more interesting from the perspective of the British press, who have been nearly unanimous is making Corbyn look to radical to be electable. Even the Guardian has been criticized for its coverage. Looking at the story this way, one sees parallels with Donald Trump (though I am sure Corbyn, a self-described democratic socialist, would object to the comparison). One suspects that if Corbyn wins there will be plenty of columns written examining the press’s role in his victory and why the press could not persuade voters to election one of his opponents.
In the US, editors generally struggle with the issue of publishing news they feel their readers need to read, versus what readers want to read. International news is often at the heart of the debate. But with newspapers having websites it seems odd that editors would not publish these stories online, choosing to leave them out of their print editions due to space limitations. It is also odd that major papers don’t have blogs for their foreign bureaus, if not to inform readers than to keep editors up to speed with what stories may become big news in the future (think, for instance, of the migrants story which is currently front page news, but has been a real issue all summer).
“The launch of a new online edition of The Times for Ireland is a positive milestone for Irish journalism and represents one of the most significant investments in the sector in recent years,” said Richard Oakley, editor of the Irish edition of The Times. “We have hired some of Ireland’s most renowned journalists and secured a range of innovative partnerships to deliver the first product of its kind in Ireland.”
Rupert Murdoch’s Times already has an iPad edition for the Sunday Times Ireland, though reviews for the app inside the Irish Apple App Store are not very positive, though the complaints are more about the quality of the app than they are about Murdoch’s brand of journalism.
Back to The New York Times… the executive editor of the Times, Dean Baquet, was asked about his use of social media, something the paper has stressed over the past couple of years. Baquet was interviewed by Re/Code’s Kara Swisher at one of their events and asked about his own use of social media, which is minimal.
“I have an electric typewriter,” Baquet replied.
“I ask because the sense is that today if you’re leading a newspaper into the future, you have to understand social media, and to understand it, you have to use it. Don’t you think that’s true?” asked Swisher.
“I don’t think that’s true,” said the Times editor. “The job of a modern news editor is to lead a newsroom in coverage, and leadership is the most important asset. The most important thing I can do every day is to come in and talk to reporters and editors, and to be perfectly frank, anything that I do other than that is secondary.”
While next week’s release of iOS 9 spells the end of Apple’s Newsstand, it does not mean the end of digital editions. In fact, in one area they are continuing to grow: libraries.
These services are often brought in via Zinio or Flipster and allow the library districts to make far more titles available to patrons than they could if they were still displaying print editions (and patrons can’t rip out pages of the digital editions as they often do print).
But these digital editions are best used for research than they are pleasure reading as the magazines are offered as PDF replicas, and are as much fun to read as archived newspapers via microfiche. In fact, I would say this is precisely the what PDF replicas should properly be used for, archiving of past issues, as the file sizes are kept to a minimum.
Late last week the Welsh government awarded a contract to LMS vendor SirsiDynix to develop a new library card platform. Their goal: give everyone with a Welsh library card the option to utilize any library in Wales.
A single library card across Wales would mean users could borrow and return books in any library across the country. It would also open up access for people to take advantage of free computer use in libraries no matter where in the country they are and create a national e-books and e-zines service with free seamless downloads.
Currently library users can only use public library cards within the local authorities they are registered. The system would provide a new and modern approach, which will benefit customers, for example those who work in a different local authority to which they are registered, and widen choice.
The system is expected to be adopted starting next year, and the government thinks local authorities could save as much as 70% on their platform costs after they switch over to the new system.
But as anyone who has watched large technical projects flounder can tell you, both estimates are probably highly optimistic.
With a population around 3 million, Wales won’t come close to being the largest single unified library system (many major cities, including NYC, have public library systems that serve larger populations). But with 22 counties and hundreds of library branches, Wales has its work cut out for it.
On the plus side, Wales does have a national library organization. When the new platform is operational and integrated with the local library systems, that organization will enable patrons to more easily find digital resources at other libraries.