YESTERDAY the readers of 56 newspapers in 45 countries, using 20 different languages, read the same front-page editorial article on the subject of the UN Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change. This unprecedented collaboration was initiated by Britain's The Guardian which undertook the delicate task of writing the first draft of the article and fielding the suggestions for changes made by the collaborating newspapers. In the event, the importance and urgency of the subject - the future of Planet Earth, no less - and the broad international acceptance of the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, probably made participating leader writers disinclined to indulge in fine-tuning. Journalists are naturally competitive people and so they are entitled on this occasion to say to the negotiators in Copenhagen, We managed to agree what needs to be done - why can't you?
In an accompanying article the Guardian lifted the curtain a little on how the collaboration was achieved. Interestingly, the earliest encouragement came from India and China while the least co-operative were newspapers in the United States - none of the major city newspapers was interested, except for the Miami Herald. One response said bluntly, It's an outrageous attempt to orchestrate media pressure. Go to hell! Surprisingly, there was no taker in Japan which has at least three substantial national newspapers. The Guardian should have tried the independent English-language Japan Times (which, incidentally, I used to write for).