Change in Foreign Correspondence

Left: James Cameron, foreign correspondent, in India in 1967.The Guardian.                 Right: Jeremy Wagstaff. Chicago Tribune. Apr 2012.

For many readers international news coverage has been an imperfect part of American journalism for many years. With the limited resources and money, news overseas was either compressed or generalized. In the recent decades the once dull and under-covered international news has become widely transformed and broadcasted.

Today, technology increases allow access to the news through easy and fast outlets. No longer do foreign correspondents have the luxury of writing a story hours after it happens, sending it away just in time to make the front page tomorrow morning; instead news is published mere moments after it occurs. The use of smartphones to capture video and upload to the web has allowed many people, not just journalist, to report on incidents across the globe. The website Demotix allows not only reporters but anyone with a smartphone to upload his/her pictures or articles of events. Demotix is a simple site to look up news in a certain geological area. The segmentation of foreign news online is in many ways replacing the need for foreign correspondence for many newspapers. Only a handful of papers and news stations keep foreign reporters on staff.

It is expensive, time consuming, and sometimes dangerous to send a reporter overseas. According to Nicholas Kristof in his article “On the Ground” published by the New York Times, only four American newspapers, the Times included, have foreign desks.  The shrinking of foreign correspondence is caused by the convenience of broadcast media. Should newspapers spend time and money to send a reporter overseas when citizens and foreign reporters can capture the news?

Below is a chart from the American Journalism Review that compares the amount on international news articles in newspapers from 1985 to 2010. The decrease is partly due to lack of foreign correspondents but also an increase in other media forms for foreign news.

Although foreign correspondence is not completely dead, it is ever changing with the times. Its new role includes not just skilled reporters but witness, citizens, and participants that broadcast the event or story.

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