Media World: Why the U.K.'s Evening Standard is sorry

What does the Evening Standard have to be sorry about? The U.K. tabloid isn't saying anything about the sins it committed, but it is promising to provide more details soon.

If this seems like a publicity stunt, that's because it is. The Evening Standard was recently acquired by a Russian businessman and former KGB officer Alexander Lebedev for the whopping price of a pound. Moreover, like U.S. papers, the Evening Standard is facing stiff competition from free publications which has eaten away its circulation revenue.

Unlike its rival tabloids, the Evening Standard is not known for outrageous stunts such as the "sting" engineered by the News of the World to "buy" one of the child stars of the hit movie "Slumdog Millionaire." In fact, as Roy Greenslade, a journalism professor and blogger for The Guardian points out, the Evening Standard's reputation is not bad at all.

"If you take away the politics, the rest of the newspaper is pretty good," Greenslade told the Daily Finance.

What may have prompted the Evening Standard to "apologize" was its role in driving London's controversial mayor Ken Livingston from office. U.S. readers should note that the tradition of journalists being objective is an American phenomena, and a fairly recent one at that. Papers in the U.K. and in other parts of the world take on avowedly partisan tones.

According to Greenslade, market research by the paper's new owners found that Londoners found it to be too negative. When it comes to Livingston, a controversial politician nicknamed "Red Ken," the criticism was justified.

"The campaign against Ken Livingston was over the top," Greenslade said.

The Evening Standard is taking its campaign directly to the people of London with signs saying sorry and sorry for being negative, for taking you for granted, for being complacent and for being predictable appearing on the city's public transportation system.

Unfortunately, many of the paper's journalists worked there under the old ownership. This has made them wonder whether they owe anyone an apology and has damaged morale, Greenslade said.

"It's unprecedented," he said. "I have never known any newspaper that would dare do such a thing."

But if it works, expect American newspapers to start apologizing in droves.


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