Wall Street Journal vs. Financial Times

We understand from Hugh Carnegy, Executive Editor of the Financial Times, that FT’s standards of journalistic practice are based on the UK Press Complaints Commission’s code of conduct.

This affirmation reminded us of our thesis that each newspaper has a unique culture that gets reflected in the writings of its reporters and that journalistic culture is drawn from the ethos or culture of the city in which the Newspaper is based.  We had expressed this thesis last June in our article “New York Times vs. Washington Post”. (https://cinemarasik.com/2008/06/27/new-york-times-vs-washington-post.aspx&nbsp.

The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times are two prominent and respected financial newspapers that enjoy global readership. We have brought several interesting articles from these two newspapers to the attention of our readers.

But these two newspapers are hardly bookends. They might write about similar issues and markets, but you can see a cultural difference between these two newspapers.

The Wall Street Journal (“WSJ“) is an American newspaper. It is sometimes brash and opinionated. The WSJ reporters tend to see the issues from an American angle – wide, independent and without racial or religious malice. WSJ reporters favor individuality and entrepreneurship. They care about the quality of an individual’s achievement and not the race or lineage of that individual.

This is just as true when the WSJ discusses Asian or Latin American issues as it is when it discusses European-American issues. In particular, the WSJ has written insightful and knowledgeable articles about India, articles that we consider to be absolutely superb. For example,

  • In the early 1990s, the WSJ wrote an article about why Indian immigrants succeed in America. This article was published on the front page ( page A1) of the Journal. In this insightful article, WSJ made the case that Indians grow up in a competitive democracy which teaches each individual, each community, each state to compete for its place under the sun. It teaches Indians to articulate their views clearly and forcefully without being demagogic. It teaches Indians to compete in the civil arena within the established rules of society.  The WSJ noted that these are exactly the virtues needed to succeed in American society. Their insight was that Indian immigrants come to America well-prepared to fight for their place under the American sun whereas immigrants from many other countries come without the knowledge and experience necessary to fight their battles in the competitive American democracy. This is a critical reason, WSJ concluded, for the success of Indian-Americans in American society.

  • We recall another front page article about the Sanskrut language and how, according to the WSJ, you could speak in Sanskrut to a Lithuanian farmer before World War II and the farmer would understand what you were saying. The article began with this surprising fact and went on to describe the similarities between Sanskrut Grammar and German grammar.

In contrast, the articles in the Financial Times (“FT“) seem more parochial and less open in their outlook. There is an underlying sense of intellectual smugness and a belief that their world view is somehow more sophisticated and less primitive than that of others. The FT is deeply desirous of increasing its market share in America and they hide this bias when they discuss purely American issues. But, this bias comes across loud and clear when the FT writes about India or China. May be, it is their colonial heritage that they are unable to shed.

In fact, the tone of the FT articles reminds us of the Limousine Liberals of the 1980s.  In those days, it was fashionable to praise England for being a “cultured” society. We felt then and we know now, that “cultured” was a code-word for absence of colored people and colored influences. In those days, racial relations in New York were not what they are today. So, the Limousine Liberal sub-culture fashioned its own code-word for praising England for its racial segregation and deriding America.

We do not have the numbers but it seems to us that the WSJ is more racially integrated than the Financial Times. Our empirical and sensory observation is that most of the FT reporters (especially the reporters that put up videos on ft.com) are native Britishers. It is rare to see a FT reporter who is an immigrant Britisher.

When you hear the videos on the FT website, you notice that the FT reporters make no attempt whatsoever to pronounce correctly the names of the Indian individuals or institutions. It is as if they consider it beneath them to worry about correct pronunciation of non-British names. 

This may be another cultural difference between America and England. We generally find that American reporters are conscious of the need to pronounce unfamiliar names correctly.  If they do not know how to pronounce a name, they tend to make a self-deprecating comment about their unfamiliarity with that name.

We repeat our view that the culture of a newspaper is usually drawn from the culture of its city and country. Hugh Carnegy’s correspondence with us makes it clear to us that the FT is governed by the English code of conduct and England’s culture. We feel fairly confident in stating that the WSJ editors would be proud to affirm their American culture.

In other words, the Wall Street Journal hails from a culture which recently elected as its President, an African-American, the son of a first-generation immigrant from Kenya, while the Financial Times hails from a culture in which its royal family has allegedly used racial epithets like “Paki” to describe immigrants from India-Pakistan to its country.

We would take America and the Wall Street Journal on any issue on any day.

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