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Yesterday, 56 newspapers in 45 countries published the same editorial. Although appearing in 20 different languages, the sentiments of the piece remained the same from India to China to Dubai to Canada’s Toronto Star. The papers aimed to urge the 192 countries represented at the United Nations’ climate treaty talks in Copenhagen to come to an agreement on the international issue of climate change. Spearheaded by the Guardian in the U.K., a common editorial raises questions about how much impact newspapers’ editorial stances have. It remains to be seen if anyone will listen. The piece says if the list of 56 newspapers (which is notably lacking any U.S. presence, save for the Miami Herald) can agree on action, the summit should also be able to produce results. But the editorial is short on specifics, no doubt because it needed to include values each newspaper could get behind.

The Columbia Journalism Review writes, “Editorial bandwagoning is not what readers need right now, however. They need aggressive reporting over the next two weeks that avoids wild mood swings between ‘new hope’ and ‘no hope.'”

In theory, the idea is a thought-provoking (and logistically challenging) one. In practice, I’m not sure it’s the best use of space and resources. As a reader, what does this editorial tell me? That climate change is a problem and 56 newspapers are going to hold hands in solidarity? The presentation on the front page of the Toronto Star didn’t help—on first glance, I mistook it for an ad. The editorial sends a message of unity, but is short on specifics—the same vague hope, it’s feared, that will come out of Copenhagen.

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About the author

Katherine Laidlaw was the Editor for the Spring 2010 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

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