As the lead up to last month’s general election came to a conclusion, social media and the web were at the helm of media coverage. Tweets had observations and dispatches from campaign sites for each party, and articles and multimedia features about the campaign were front and centre.
However, the reach was to more than just readers in the UK. Interest had gone global, particularly in the United States, where British media outlets, including the Financial Times, the BBC and the Guardian have been thriving in those markets. The web and social media had become critical tools for outreach and engagement, even beyond the election itself.
— David Uberti (@DavidUberti) May 7, 2015
‘Excited to be a journalist again’
There were opportunities for these stories to be told to audiences in America, and for Ari Shapiro, that opportunity would become a reality. He recently accepted the post of the London based International Correspondent at the American National Public Radio, after years in Washington covering the White House and the Justice Department.
In a telephone interview, Shapiro said he had become part of a pack, with a number of correspondents chasing the same story. In London, Shapiro was no longer part of that pack.
“I was excited to be a journalist again,” Shapiro said. “I can pivot from arts to business to politics, and everything in between. There are a number of stories of interest to an American audience, but a small amount necessary to an American audience.”
The web has seen international publications succeeding beyond their countries of origin, but British media outlets have been expanding into the US market for decades, beginning with the FT and the BBC, and now in the digital age with The Guardian and The Daily Mail.
Shapiro says he does get ideas from things he sees in British media, but, he doesn’t think NPR listeners are “saturated with information from the Guardian or Telegraph that they’ll think they haven’t heard it before.”
Shapiro also makes the point of getting out of London as much as possible to cover stories, saying the UK media is London centric.
More than just business
However, especially during the election, there were many stories to tell, which can give an idea of differences on the workings of public service organisations. Other issues included the debates on immigration in Europe through the lens of the US-Mexico border debate, and the issue of federalism and US state rights, as Britain debates membership within the EU ahead of a referendum by Prime Minister David Cameron.
“Americans are bored with horserace stories in America,” Shapiro said. “They’re more bored about horserace stories elsewhere. There are a lot of issues crucial to British voters that could work for stories for US audiences and be made relevant to the US.”
Yet, the expansion by British media in the US is more than just business. Reached by email, Camilla Tominey, the Royal Editor of the Sunday Express, and an analyst on royal affairs for the US TV network NBC, said the expansion signifies the relevance of the special relationship between Britain and America.
Coverage of the Royal Family proved popular in the US, with many outlets in the country devoting time to royal events, most recently the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
“They remain a source of fascination because they are the last remaining bastion of a Downton Abbey way of life,” Tominey said.
Tominey notes the expansion also speaks volumes of the internet, and its ability to allow the world to become, what the communications scholar Marshall McLuhan called, the global village.
“In the Mail’s case, they know there is a huge market in America for celebrity stories packaged in a certain click bait kind of way,” Tominey said. “If media outlets can generate revenue across the pond then they will.”
Yet, with social media and the web at the helm, you still need to know what it is good for in an editorial context, regardless of what story that will get interest when it goes online or is broadcast.
“It is now part of the toolkit,” Shapiro said. “It is helpful in some scenarios and can be actively damaging at times. You have to know what it is good for.”
What do you think of the expansion? How has social media and the web changed how we look at consuming journalism and creating journalism? Have your say in the comments section below.