Monday, November 19, 2007

They Think This is Us

In a way, many of the problems outlined here are endemic to journalism. Most reporters think most readers don't give a damn about what happens in East Jesus Township, Kentucky, on a typical day. But if there's, say, a school shooting there, the world will know about it. And as a result, chances are that's all they'll know about the place afterward.

Just so, American foreign correspondents in Europe tend to only report on the quirky, outrageous, and scary aspects of daily life there. And Europeans tend to resent this:

"America's leading newspaper seems unaware there are serious issues of economics, politics, state policy, and all its Paris correspondent thinks about is making cliched comparisons between France and the United States about women, divorce, affairs by politicians. Does she know anything else? New York liberals think we are Disneyland. At least American conservatives want to talk about real things."

Which is amusing when they don't realize how much their views of the U.S. are informed by the same sort of reporting, if possible, more malicious because so relentlessly negative. At least over here, we get the "there'll always be an England" sort of coverage that makes Europeans seem different from us in a charming, often admirable, way (phony though that coverage may be).

Over there, well, here's a (translated) sample of the opening graph of a story from one of the major German news mags:

In Europe one usually receives a cookie with their coffee. In the USA it is an assault rifle: In the Texan solitude, waitresses with highly teased hair offer the things for sale in weapon shops camouflaged as cafes. Normal daily life in Bush-Country.

Normal daily life, you see.