Sunday, July 18, 2004

Why I use the Guardian

I'm not doing any statistics, but the Guardian's website is probably my single most common source of news here. It's the news site I head to first. Now that's partly because it's also the newspaper I read most often. But it's also because the web site is so bloody good. Clearly, I'm far from alone in thinking this. Their readers' editor, Ian Mayes, has this week had some respite from his usual postbag of complaints and corrections (following on from his column last week about the paper's plans for the future). The praise isn't just from us lefty-liberal types in the UK, either. The stats tell the tale, too: 100 million page impressions and 9 million users a month, "far ahead of any other newspaper website in the UK, and in the US second only to the BBC among favoured UK news sites". More people read the Guardian online than in print.

In contrast to so many other newspapers' sites, everything that appears in the print version (and considerably more, though there are a few subscription services) can be accessed free of charge and without any registration requirements. I am getting around to registering with some of the papers that demand it (NY Times, Washington Post, Telegraph, Scotsman), but it's hard to be bothered when all you want is a casual browse to pick up on interesting nuggets. Path of least resistance and all that. As for The Times, which you can't even search past the last seven days without a subscription...

And as a British academic looking for news, especially about higher education and the humanities and social sciences, the education section is hard to beat. BBC education news is better on schools than post-18; the Independent's education section is far less extensive (and a fair bit of it requires a subscription). Neither they nor the Telegraph have anything to match the Guardian's research section (unless you're a scientist). I also think the reporting of these stories tends to be better than its British rivals; remember my story last week about teaching on the Empire in British schools? Of these four news sources, only the Guardian seems to approach a balanced view of the Ofsted report concerned; the rest simply selected one part of it for a dramatic story. (I won't accuse them of outright misrepresentation, since I still can't get a view of the report in order to judge for myself. Ofsted sent me a link, but to something completely different...)

However, for all these reasons, I have a tendency to rely rather too heavily on this one source. Quite apart from the dangers of only reading papers whose politics you (largely) agree with, the Grauniad remains, for all its global reach and international coverage, primarily a British-oriented paper.* I need to get out more. So, a question for readers around the world: if it's serious, easily findable education and academic news - especially on humanities and social sciences - you're looking for, which (apart from HNN, naturally) are the best online sources and newspaper sites?

*And, as Scottish friends of mine would point out, specifically rather English (not to say London and south-eastern) in its outlook. But I think there may be worse offenders...

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