British Persuasion

With Guardian America, the British paper tries to cross the pond

I’m probably jumping the gun here, but I’m a little surprised about the launch this morning of the Guardian America Web site. Helmed by former American Prospect editor Michael Tomasky, the site is the American offshoot of the liberal Guardian paper in the UK. Tomasky writes in his introduction—which is found on the Guardian UK’s Comment is Free blog rather than Guardian America’s site—that “about five million” Americans a month already read the original, British version of the Guardian’s site, and while that’s a pretty massive number, after giving the Americanized version a look this morning, I can’t say I see anything here that’s going entice any more than that to click through.

As I said, it’s way too early to assess the site, but the American version doesn’t look too much different from its British cousin, save for a different color scheme. Sure, there’s an “Election 2008” page and a “Deadline USA” blog, both of which are indigenous to the American site, but other than that, there’s not a ton of American-centric content. One test Tomasky mentioned in his introduction will be the coverage of sports. He wrote that he won the battle to call the section “sports” rather than “sport” but a quick glace at the page doesn’t provide much that most Americans would want to read. If you click on the “Sports” tab on the Guardian America site, you’re so far merely directed to the Guardian UK’s sports page. There, stories on Formula One, Rugby, Soccer, and even Snooker come before a story about the NFL, which just edges a story about Sailing out for the thirteenth slot. That’s fine for a UK publication, but the kiss of death for one serving an American audience. There is a “US Sports” tab on the UK’s sports page, but it’s populated by bland, by-the-numbers Reuters content.

Guardian America isn’t going to sink or swim on the basis of sports—far from it. The site caters to a liberal, anti-war crowd that smells blood in the electoral waters in 2008, and wants some political red meat to chew on. (Just read the lame, cliché, anti-American comments from British readers on Tomasky’s piece for a sense of the readership.) In an already crowded field populated by plenty of liberal political blogs and magazines, we’ll have to see what place Guardian America comes to occupy.

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.