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Eurocentric

A good day for Europe. First, the Europeans collectively stood up to president Bush on the Kyoto protocol (in fact, they stood up as much as Realpolitik allow them). Second, the European Commission looks likely to scupper Jack Welch’s grand plan to takeover Honeywell.

The flipside on the Europe/US scuffle on climate change is that without US action, not much is going to be achieved on reducing greenhouse gases. Kyoto, of course, was far from perfect in this regard, but it was an important first step.

On Jack Welch’s showdown with Mario Monti, I must confess my pleasure is the very European one of Schadenfreude. I’ve always been a bit suspicious of the extraordinary results Welch has achieved at GE. Welch is justly lauded, but it doesn’t seem to me to be a model for anything. Okay, one totally irrational conglomerate can succeed. The exception that proves the rule.

Last one out, please turn off the lights

Salon claims to be the only original online magazine still alive and not owned by a big media corporation. According to David Talbot, founder and chairman, “The Salons of the world are saying the things that nobody else is saying. So if the Salons of the world disappear, woe to American democracy.”

Now I’m hugely in favour of diversity and independence in the media, and I like Salon. But I think Talbot is absurdly overstating the case. First, I don’t think “the Salons of the world” are lone voices in the wilderness. And I think it is increasingly difficult to draw a simple line as to what constitutes valuable media. The most prominent, and I think important, counter example is the continuing growth of weblogs.

I also think it’s easy to overrate just how important complete independence is in media. Slate is owned by Microsoft, but to my mind that doesn’t stop it being every bit as good as Salon (I find it far better, in truth). And Salon’s distinction as the “only original online magazine” also seems a bit stretched. There are hundreds of conventional media titles that have successfully extended themselves to the online world and offer viewpoints as diverse as anyone could wish.

So good luck to Salon, but don’t queer your pitch by claiming a fictional societal imperative.

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