Saturday, February 24, 2007

global reporting...out of our reach?

Paul McLeary of the Columbia Journalism Review published an article this week on the dying days of foreign news reporting. Since September 11, America should have become more interested in the news (and not just the nuclear power) of the people and happenings in the outer world...but his survey of U.S. news agencies commitment to international news coverage shows a weakened interest in world news.

McLeary cited the Boston Globe's January closings of its Jerusalem, Berlin and Bogota bureaus, the Baltimore Sun's closing of its Moscow and Johannesburg bureaus and shifting its own Jerusalem bureau chief into its parent company's foreign news operations.

In addition to these closings, Newsday is expected to close its Beirut bureau in the coming months and in the past two years, Newsweek shut its Beijing, Seoul, Jerusalem and Moscow bureaus and Time followed suit, shutting its Sydney and South African bureaus. For print journalism, there are four primary, international news coverage carriers: NY Times, Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the L.A. Times; all having the most reporters outside the U.S. according to the State of the News Media watch group.

But what about TV?

According to the American Journalism Review, while major networks used to permanently station regional specialists in bureaus and develop extensive sources and expertise, they now use a generic traveling reporter who drops in for a quick standup and gets out before dinner time. ABC and Fox News closed their full-time bureaus in Moscow, once considered the most important foreign outpost. CBS yanked correspondents from Paris, Johannesburg, Beijing and Bonn. No foreign correspondents exist in Manila. And even CNN, the global journalism behemoth ( leading the pack with a total of 28 full-time worldwide bureaus worldwide) shut down its reporting posts in Belgrade, Brussels and Rio de Janeiro.

At several outposts, some broadcast networks maintain skeletal staffs--a bureau manager, a producer or a local camera crew. But the AJR says that to a large extent, all of Europe and Asia are covered from mainstays in London or New York. Latin American correspondents are almost nonexistent, except for NBC's in Havana and CNN's in Buenos Aires, Havana and Mexico City. CNN and ABC and CBS are the only news agencies with full-time Beijing or Tokyo correspondents, and Africa has very few resident broadcast correspondents.

Most news agencies say its too expensive to maintain the foreign bureaus...but aren't they necessary?

With two wars happening simultaneously and even more unrest yet revealed to the public, with increasing focus on Iran, and our national oil issues with Venezuela and Mexico, McLeary is on target with his description of an untimely limit on international news coverage. McLeary suggests all hope isn't lost and that eventually print reporters will provide video footage for their stories. So, again, we could be in store for another cross-medium merge where VJ's and not broadcast journalist provide our news feeds where broadcast reporters won't or can't afford to go.

But besides the necessary presence of foreign correspondents...there needs to be more than one person reporting the news; more than the NY Times and the Washington Post or the CNN and ABC journalist. Why should all news organizations be strapped to the point of single-source dependency?

And what about the dangers of depending on just one or a few pairs of eyes....even our own Headline News dependency on CNN feeds begs the question...are we really telling the story as we would if it we were actually present to interview, shoot and capture the event on our own?


(chart: Halls Media Research)


At Saturday, February 24, 2007, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

Your Headline News question is an excellent one, and I'm willing to bet that, given the chance to investigate on our own, we would report differently.

Instead, an important point of view is lost. My question is where is this money going? I'm sure it's terribly expensive to maintain outposts abroad but are news organizations that strapped for cash that they have to make such drastic cutbacks overseas?



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