The End of the Foreign Correspondent?

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Two dodos on display in a museum.

Going the way of these guys? [hugovk / Flickr]

On January 23rd, the legendary Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski died. The next day The Boston Globe closed its last three foreign bureaus. Kapuscinski was the inspiration to a generation of foreign correspondents, Poland’s only reporter outside its own borders during the Cold War who, since he couldn’t cover everything, had the latitude to report at length what he found interesting. The Globe, like The Baltimore Sun and other smaller-city papers, was forced to reduce its foreign coverage to save editorial jobs closer to home.

The outside world won’t disappear. The Globe will borrow from the foreign desk of The New York Times; we still have the AP and Reuters and about a million journalists in Iraq. But what, then — as we consider the model of Kapuscinski — is the value of a voice? Do we lose something with the disappearance of longer-form, magazine-style reporting from abroad? Is there a value in having more than two Americans covering the same country?

And, more broadly, what are we learning about the rest of the world, and how are we learning it? As Joshua Hendrickson writes on our site, war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography. Should we be covering countries before they become hotspots? So we understand why they do, when they do? Beyond the wire services, what’s the model for foreign coverage in the future? Is it Global Voices? The young, unattached, motivated freelancer?

Jon Sawyer

Director, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Charlie Sennott

Former Foreign Correspondent for the Boston Globe

Thomas Crampton

Paris correspondent, International Herald Tribune

Blogs for proto-blogger Joi Ito

Will Stebbins

Bureau chief for the Americas, Al-Jazeera English

Allison Kaplan Somer

Blogger, An Unsealed Room

Middle East editor, Pajamas Media

Extra Credit Reading

Ethan Zuckerman, Are foreign correspondents going extinct? Or just changing their stripes?, My Heart’s in Accra, January 26, 2007: “Foreign reporters are an endangered species in the US today . . . Newsday, which had unique and exciting Africa coverage under his leadership, now has only four overseas employees and will close all bureaus by the end of this year. They’re not alone. The Boston Globe is shuttering its four overseas bureaus, leading Christine Chen in Foreign Policy’s Passport to observe that there’s now only one foreign correspondent for each 1.3 million people in the US.”

Vanessa Gezari, “Freelancing Overseas: Casting Off the Parachute”, Poynter Online, Winter 2004: “There will always be war reporting, but American readers in particular would be well-served by more reporting on peace — or what passes for peace — in far corners of the world.”

Michael Hirschorn, “Get Me Rewrite!”, The Atlantic Monthly, December 2006: “John Vinocur writes a great weekly column for the International Herald Tribune, but anyone who cares about Europe can tap hundreds of other sources in a matter of minutes.”

Howard Kurtz, “Journalism’s Rising Risk Factor”, The Washington Post, August 28, 2006: “Being a foreign correspondent is one of the world’s most thankless jobs. Those who ply the journalistic trade around the globe are increasingly subjected to bombings, shootings, kidnappings or simply being jailed on spying charges.”

Elisabeth Witchel, “The Fixers”, Dangrous Assignments, Winter 2004: “In a climate of heightened danger for the press, local fixers, though they may blend in more than Westerners, have become targets themselves because of their association with international media outlets. And as fixers’ work becomes both more substantial and more dangerous, news organizations face tougher questions in navigating this new terrain in international journalism.”

6:31

In 2002, I spent a great deal of time in Iraq and all through the Middle East reporting on how people in those Muslim countries looked at the impending American confrontation with Iraq. And what struck me, a) was how few American reporters were in Iraq in 2002, and b) the fact that my perspective — what I saw in Iraq moving around the country interviewing people who were openly contemptuous of Saddam Hussein — it was quite different from the picture that was being painted by the media at large in the United States and by our government about the totalitarian regime that was on the march. I didn’t see that. That’s not what I saw.

Jon Sawyer

12:48

The problem I think we got into in the run-up to the war on Iraq, the failure of the meda, the huge failure on our part to do a good job covering that, had to do with something else, which I think is a sort of devaluation of ground truth. That because we have big media, because we have CNN, and our foreign editors and managing editors can sit in the confines of their offices and feel like they’re watching what’s going on, they’ve dismissed those reports from the ground.

Charlie Sennott

29:15

I think that as we move forward, we’re going to find that these very same brand names, these very same newspapers that are facing such a difficulty right now are going to be seen as holding the key for the future, which is the certification of, “this is a news source or a blog that’s worth reading according to a trusted news source.” I think that that’s a role that’s going to increase in value over time. There’s so much conversation going on out there; we need to trim it back to figure out what is interesting, what is important.”

Thomas Crampton

34:34

The one distinction with Al-Jazeera is that we make no distinction between foreign and domestic news. We don’t have a foreign desk. Our audience is global, and our perspective is always global.

Will Stebbins

48:40

[Bloggers are] a different kind of foreign correspondent because their readers can relate to them, not just because they’re American or they’re coming from the same culture, but because they’re talking about news events from the ground, in terms of how a regular person would see things.

Allison Kaplan Somer

44:14

I’d like to throw out the counterintuitive thought that it’s not so much the foreign correspondent that has disappeared as the broad audience has disappeared.

Jon Sawyer

  • http://www.thiswayplease.com/extra-extra/ FredR

    This isn’t about security risks, it’s about the bottom line. There are plenty of correspondents crowded into Baghdad’s Green Zone, while the DRC – a country the size of Western Europe – is covered by two or three agency reporters.

    Of course, things don’t stop happening just because news organisations currently lack the will and imagination to invest in foreign correspondents. So this trend is a good opportunity for freelancers and those experimenting with open-source approaches.

  • Potter

    Tom Fenton speaks spoke about this on is book tour awhile ago. His book: Bad News: The Decline of Reporting, the Business of News, and the Danger to Us All

  • http://www.bicyclemark.org bicyclemark

    As charming and romantic as the image of the foreign correspondant was, mostly i think — it is about time.

    The foreign corr., above all, gave the IMPRESSION that he or she knew all about the region and the issue they were talking about. They wore khaki vests and had images of exotic scenes behind them, they might even have sounded intellegent attempting to pronounce complicated names of world leaders.

    The truth is, much of that was a myth. It was image being sold to a viewing audience, and apparently it got too expensive to produce this image.

    With the global reach of the new era of blogs, podcasts, and videoblogs, our foreign correspondents will not be trying to look the part.. they will actually be living-breathing the conflict they live in. Baghdad Burning, is an early example of this. But there is a whole generation of reporters coming very soon, reporting in depth and detail that the foreign correspondant only wished he/she could attain.

  • http://www.bicyclemark.org bicyclemark

    taking nothing a way for the small group of foreign correspondents who did great things and knew their stuff.

  • zeke

    Does Oh My News fit into this story? Since learning of it from ROS, I have looked at it periodically, but it hasn’t assumed the authority of foreign correspondents for me yet.

  • http://etangents.typepad.com josephmoyer

    I picked up the Feb. 5th issue of the New Yorker (among other magazines) at the drug store this morning because I have the flu and wanted something to read. I’ve never read the magazine before and opened, quite by accident to “Crossing the Border” by Mr. Kapuscinski about the first time he left his country. It’s an excellent and compelling piece, I’m better for having read it.

    My fear is that with the loss of foreign correspondents (especially in print) we’ll loose a perspective we’re familiar with. We risk loosing some of the back story, the trip, getting around barriers of language and custom. Perhaps in the modern age all these things are easy to bypass with modern technology and cash. I hope we see great independent reporting take the place of what’s going away, just as FredR suggests will likely happen.

    I’m not surprised by the decision although I do wonder if it’s a wise one. I know that the Globe is owned by the Times Co. but they must realize that a certain percentage of frequent readers (and subscribers I imagine) look for foreign news and prefer the Globe over the Times for whichever reason. AP and Reuters do great work but having an actual correspondent who one can identify with, who writes for “my” newspaper of choice is frankly a selling point.

  • Potter

    Baghdad Burning is an incredible window to help us understand what is going on from one representative native point of view . But BB cannot replace John Burns and his colleagues. From the former one wants emotion and uninhibited opinion, We want something different from the foreign correspondant who, like Burns, has been around and can give us perspective based on wide and long experience and ( I assume) training in journalism. I also assume that the correspondant has some staff backing him up ( research etc.) The few FC’s that are left will most likely be shared and treasured all the more I would hope.

  • http://www.circles-salon.com allison

    So, if the Globe borrows from the Times and all the papers that are owned by one corporation share foreign correspondents, won’t the news feel homogenized? How do we tell the difference between the Globe and the Times?

    Like josephmoyer, I hope that this simply means a rise in independent reporting.

  • http://www.ncpr.org Dale Hobson

    I often share Bill Mahr’s lament, “Why do we always have to be the STUPID country. In part, it’s because we prefer it that way. Robust and far-reaching foreign reporting impairs our comfortable complacency. Understanding the actual mechanics of distant disasters creates moral demands; it connects the dots between our policies and our highly-privileged position in the world. For example, Americans are most comfortable viewing their personal wealth as being the result of individual virtue and industriousness. But a little investigation into how the world economy works elsewhere can draw one to toward the conclusion that our wealth IS their poverty. If we want to preserve our own good opinion of ourselves, the options are two–act on the information, or remove the source of the irritation. Through our media companies, we are opting for the latter.

  • nother

    The genesis of Radio Open Source was a realization of globalization. When Chris was doing radio in Jamaica and got a call from a Jamaican in NYC, he could see the old walls had evaporated, the conversation was now global. I’ve taken that to mean that what Chris saw evaporating was the very idea of what “foreign” means.

    When Sidewalker blogs from Japan or Bicyclemark from Amsterdam do we call them foreign bloggers? Bicyclemark is indeed an ROS correspondent, is he not?

    A beauty of globalization is the erosion of “otherness.” I spent a lot of time in college studying the degeneration of ethnographic film. Under the auspices of anthropology, western white men would drop into foreign lands with khakis (as bicyclemark put it) and a camera, and observe the other. There was a western white man in front of the camera, behind the camera and editing the footage. On top of that, the people they were observing could not be expected to act “natural” in the presence of these men.

    It can be argued that for all its drawbacks, ethnographic film was beneficial in that it at the very least, it introduced the larger world out there. Cameras were large and the technology of representation was cost prohibitive; they did the best they could with what they had – I’d argue that the same goes for Foreign correspondents.

    Times have changed however, the tools of representation are cheaper and more accessible, the opportunity for self-representation has arrived. The old filters are evaporating, representation can now come from the source, and with it – a deeper awareness of what connects us.

  • Potter

    After our invasion, Sarah Chayes ( formerly reporter for NPR) dressed herself in Afghan attire lived and worked amongst a group of women in Kandahar setting up a coop, wrote a book about it, blogged about the situation ( on the NYTimes website) came home and gave interviews. I don’t think any Afghani blogging could have done what she did.

    http://www.transom.org/guests/specialguests/sarahchayes.html

  • interstitial

    It seems like people are assuming various different functions of the foreign correspondent.

    As I understand it, in a democratic society, it’s important that the people be educated about what their government is doing, or not doing, such that we can make decisions about how they’re doing. This is a purely political function. There’s also the entertainment function – getting information about sports scores or the latest foibles of movie stars – among various others.

    To take the example of war reporting, is this kind of news important because it humanizes others, with whom we otherwise wouldn’t come in contact, whose problems would otherwise seem distant and not important? Is it important because we, as citizens, need to be informed as to our government’s actions and policies abroad, so that we can make our will be known? Is it purely for the cheap, voyeuristic thrill of seeing warfare, which, however horrible, is still compelling? Or perhaps we read about foreign wars simply to savor a feeling like that of a person looking through a window at the nasty weather outside: reveling in a sense of safety and comfort, and pity for those who lack shelter.

    If we can decide which of these (or what combination thereof) is closest to the truth – that is, if we can decide what we need a foreign correspondent for – we might have an easier time of addressing the question of what it means to have fewer of them.

    Maybe, as Dale Hobson suggests, all Americans really want is simply less of this kind of information. I really think there’s a demand for news from abroad, but what KIND of news, from WHERE, and to what end?

    To Nother’s point: I really think you’re being very optimistic about the speed with which “otherness” falls away. There’s a qualitative difference between news provided by a parachute journalist and a “native” that goes beyond the objective quality of the information. Americans don’t WANT their news direct from the source, they want it to be mediated by the pith-hatted westerner so as to be palatable and relatable.

  • Potter

    I should have given this link for Sarah Chayes which is her latest available interview that I know of. For me she is the epitome of an excellent foreign correspondent, as Interstitial says rightly, one who can see for us and mediate. In this case NPR failed us by refusing to allow her to report what she was seeing. And we are still not getting this view of Afghanistan.

    I highly recommend the interview – watch the stream if you can.

    http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/10/10/1355235

  • Sir Otto

    If Sylvia Poggioli goes, I go with her. There’ll be no point in living anymore. Her beautiful Italian as she reports “Sylvia Poggioli, Rome”. A classy beauty.

  • Igor

    What about Ann “naked in Baghdad” Garrels? The one that said that Tariq Ayoub (killed by USAF in Al-Jazeera Baghdad office) was “in the wrong place in the wrong time”?

  • http://nowcough.blogspot.com barthjg

    Readers and listeners need to be interested in foreign coverage to make it worthwhile. Yes, there is the necessity and value of the mission of keeping people informed. But without an audience, this does not work. So much foreign coverage is…foreign. Not interesting. Not relevant or made relevant to an audience back home. This isn’t the 19th century when people flocked to the Explorers Club to hear some derring-do from a guy back from the jungles or the deserts. The drone of daily Baghdad coverage is one example of what’s to blame. I only need ONE good story about the latest bombing and casualty toll. The problem with interative news is the same in Boston or Baghdad. Excelent foreign reporting requires a writer’s touch and a producer’s eye and a dramatist’s ear. The facts and stories are all there, but taken together in the daily meatgrinder of the news cycle, news…even important news..can be a dull bore. Audiences demand more in terms of relevance, and frankly less in terms of length. They’ll hang with a great story superbly told. But the burden is on the reporter, the editor, the publisher and the network. In any given day what was the BG foreign desk doing better than ANYONE else? And was the paper effectively promoting it. I would suggest not much in the first case, and not enough in the latter.

  • Igor

    interstitial:

    Americans WANT, Americans DON’T WANT, Americans this, Americans that… How come even discussions about other countries always turn to Americans? And what do you know about Americans? What Americans? But even if Americans don’t want truth (which I don’t believe), should they be lied to? And they are…

    The fact is, nobody’s even asking Americans about these matters, it’s too powerful a tool to give to the people, as everybody understands. It’s not rocket science…

  • OliverCranglesParrot

    Is geography (one of many possible gateways into trans-cultural appreciation) part of the U.S. public school curriculum anymore? If so, why would the interest in foreign reporting be on the wane? Perhaps the way it’s taught? If not, when did it start disappearing from the curriculum and why?

  • Igor

    barthjg;

    Your analysis is all wrong. Just ask yourself, what is the product of media as an industry? What it paid for? The answer is, it’s not content (to sell to consumers), it’s audience (to sell to advertisers). What GE wants from it’s subsidiary NBC is much more important that what we want. And this is everywhere…

    Well, OliverCranglesParrot, if you want to bomb the hell out of Iraq(n), would you really be interested in wide knowledge (and appreciation) of their cultures here in US?

  • tlewis

    FEW JOURNALISTS ARE EXPERTS

    I know this is hard to admit even for NPR folks and our beloved journalist host, but it is important to make it clear that very few journalists are really experts in foreign countries. Their studies of history, ancient and modern, are usually slightly better than the tourist guidebooks overall and clustered around thumbnail studies related to their assignsment.

    MORE PROBLEMATIC, they rarely speak the languages of the people in the country they are living in. They have to rely on interpreters and translators. (And you can look up Ambrose Bierce’s definition of what they do to shape their mediation to see the problem.)

    And to cap it all, they will rarely admit that their sources are mediated through this language filter. I keep l;ooking for the Iraq reporters to own up to the language barrier they face, but omit in their attempt to look like an “expert.” This is faux expertise, and the first draft of history has little hope of real clarity or depth.

    As an expert on South Asia, I have seen this play out from every angle, having helped journalists from the most presitigous news organizations get oriented, witnessed how they live in various bubbles (e.g. 5-star hotels) that with ignorance of the local language keeps them from reality on the ground.

    One of our greatest stupidities as a nation and in our culture is not taking advantage of the true expertise we possess, and accepting the surface knowledge of journalists as barely above the typical American tourist.

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  • bobsled

    About time these guys left. If you want to judge how successfully authentic the voice a foreign correspondent is, look at how much of the vulnerabilities of the local people he or she shares. One such example is Nat etheyer. Most of the rest are simply Westerners who are overpaid in most of these countries they report from. Most of the benefit from their reporting goes to their own careers. They travel to all these countries with a book contract in hand or on their minds. I view foreign correspondents as appendages of official Washington. The worst manifestation of this is the embed program. They hobnob with their fellow expats at parties, creating their own little oasis of condenscension, and sneer at the pathetic locals. The future lies in the voices of the journalists in the countries of interest. Among the best of examples of this trend is Ahmed Rashid of Pakistan.

  • Thomas Crampton

    Very much enjoyed the discussion.

    As requested on air, here’s some of the sources I read to follow international news.

    More traditional:

    http://www.thelocal.se/RSS/theLocal.xml

    http://www.jp.dk/rss_english/

    Good aggregators:

    http://www.zonaeuropa.com/index.xml

    http://chinadigitaltimes.net/atom.xml

    http://www.zonaeuropa.com/blogroll.htm = wide ranging blogroll on Asia.

  • Igor

    “300 foreign correspondents overseas. And 3,000 in Washington DC?”

    It says it all, isn’t it? That’s free press for you…

    I think even in Soviet Russia the ratio was more reasonable.

  • herbert browne

    With the growing ubiquity of english around the world, it’s far more likely, nowadays, to hear someone reporting in their “second language”… and this is a good thing, to me. That said, the “foreign” views of a Rami Khouri or (formerly) a Tariq Aziz seem to me not so different from any number of “domestic” reporters, dignitaries, intellectuals, etc- that is, they are those things first, and “foreign” as an afterthought. We’re all in this together… ^..^

  • darwhin

    no way anyone reasonable could support al jazerra. it doesn’t matter if their english operation claims to be legit, their other operation is clearly disgusting. imagine if some other company did the same, trying to have a good face in this country while sh*tting on us in another. no one would stand for it. its simply unethical to support such a thing.

    as for the news, people concentrate too much on the minutia as if it meant anything. listening to yet another bush or iraq story isn’t convincing anyone of anything. i knew bush was retarded years ago, if i skip a day or news i doubt i’ll miss something that will convince me different. same with iraq, yet another iraq is a f*ck hole story? of course americans skip it and go watch something silly or a puff piece instead, they aren’t into masochism after all.

    you could argue the most f*cked up places in the world like in the middle east and in the gaza/west bank get too much news. tuned into al jazerra/cnn/hamas tv or whatever 24/7 feeding the anger -> terror news cycle. that the media is such a force for good is questionable.

  • Potter

    I don’t and can’t read every story from Baghdad but I did for instance this morning ( from yesterday’s NYT) and I was full attention on it. To avoid getting numb you have to moderate and select what and how much you ingest. I can tell you that I was grateful to read the story, analysis, quotes from Iraqi’s who are in a rage and blaming the U.S. for allowing a vacuum, for arresting those who had protected them (Damien Cave and Richard Oppel Jr.).

    On the other hand Baghdad Burning is so bitter that she has not been posting since the hanging of Saddam. And who is to blame her? But still we need to know what is going on. And even if she was blogging- she is not out there in the street telling you how big the hole is ( you could fit a sedan into it).

    This business about language barrier is a red herring. ( Chayes learned Pashtun btw!) and of course it would be great if FC’s did not need a translator- but gee whiz….. the alternative is to have a native who does not know English or us that well, how to talk to us, tell the story.

    I agree about Ahmad Rashid, Rami Khouri and add Fawaz Gerges. These are extraordinary people, two not strictly foreign correspondents.

    Notice how many women ( with flowing scarves) are out there risking for the story. Add- Sheila McVicker and Christianne Amanpour, Deborah Amos, Deborah Sontag (was for years-the NYTimes from Israel) to the others mentioned above.

  • hurley

    World’s oldest newspaper abandons paper, goes online:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070205/ap_on_hi_te/sweden_oldest_newspaper

  • http://www.bicyclemark.org bicyclemark

    OOoh… Im late in responding to the question of whether or not Im a ROS correspondant… Yes.. yes I am. I just appointed myself. Thats marketly different to how those older dudes got their jobs with CBS/NBC/CNN. And obviously I realize this is a traumatic new media world that many people are afraid of or can see the potential pitfalls. It is all true… but I think it will prove well worth it.. when the dust settles.. we will have REAL correspondants all over the world… while we might miss some of the old ones.. we’ll get a better picture of what is really happenning.

    Oh and I mentioned Baghdad Burning earlier.. which I do like.. but I actually meant to point to the videoblog Alive in Baghdad.. they are what I see as a true correspondent.

  • plnelson

    war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography

    Far be it from me to defend religion, but even I think this is a little unfair to God.

    Americans send their children to school to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. They send them to pointless wars to learn geography and foreign customs and to help them develop the strength of character that comes from spending life in a wheelchair or missing a few limbs. Being left physically and mentally broken in a nation too burdened by war debt to help much brings out their inner resourcefulness. We hate our children. We resent them for their youth, their strength, their vitality, their idealism. This is how we punish them for those sins.

  • plnelson

    With the global reach of the new era of blogs, podcasts, and videoblogs,

    The problem with having the locals report on their own subjective experiences is toofold -

    1. They are too wrapped up in it to be objective. How many of the citizens of Bahgdad blogging about this stupid war are NOT Sunni, Shiite, or Kurd? Outsiders are often keener observers than locals – Who has EVER done a better job describing Americans than Alexis de Tocqueville?

    2. Locals have no perspective. The foreign correspondent who has reported for decades from wars and conflicts and disasters around the world in different nations and cultures and over the changing background of time and geopolitics can speak to the great human universals in these things.

  • plnelson

    Your analysis is all wrong. Just ask yourself, what is the product of media as an industry? What it paid for? The answer is, it’s not content (to sell to consumers), it’s audience (to sell to advertisers).

    This is a distinction without a difference.

    In either case the publication or network has to supply what the readers or viewers want in order to stay in busin

  • plnelson

    Your analysis is all wrong. Just ask yourself, what is the product of media as an industry? What it paid for? The answer is, it’s not content (to sell to consumers), it’s audience (to sell to advertisers).

    This is a distinction without a difference.

    In either case the publication or network has to supply what the readers or viewers want in order to stay in busin

  • plnelson

    Your analysis is all wrong. Just ask yourself, what is the product of media as an industry? What it paid for? The answer is, it’s not content (to sell to consumers), it’s audience (to sell to advertisers).

    This is a distinction without a difference. Both rely on attracting large numbers of readers or viewers, and that depends on content.

    In both cases the publication or network has to supply what the readers or viewers want in order to stay in business. If people are not willing to pay for newspapers that maintain foreign bureaus, or if they only buy those newspapers based on their sports or lifestyle coverage, then eliminating the foreign coverage makes good sense.

    Personally I read The Economist – it’s intelligently written, very detailed, full of charts and graphs, with lots of numbers and data. It heavily features foreign coverage. It also has virtually no lifestyle, sports, gossip, or other fluff. But its total paid circulation is only 450,000 compared to about 4 million for Time Magazine. This should give you an idea of how much people demand intelligent, detailed foregn coverage. (i.e., not much)

  • plnelson

    Sorry for the two duplicates up there (Brendan, please deleet them). Some kind of computer glitch.

    Brendan, I know I sound like a broken record (now, that expression really dates me!) , but is there any possibility AT ALL that the ROS blogging sw will get updated with sw that will let us edit/delete our postings? Plenty of other blogs and discussion groups have this, how hard can it be?

  • http://www.newstrust.net media_tsar

    There are some innovative projects out there that are attempting to solve the issue of identifying news sources people can trust in an increasingly fragmented, specialized, and open media landscape.

    I happen to be an editor at one such non-profit project called NewsTrust. We took the idea of social news aggregation of the breed used by sites like Digg, but focused on distilling the best ‘quality’ journalism. We base journalistic ‘quality’ on reader responses to questions of fairness, sourcing, information, and context (among others), and apply these standards to all publications, whether they be blogs, niche online sources, or mainstream news outlets.

    I’ll let the site do the talking. Check us out at http://www.newstrust.net

  • plnelson

    We base journalistic ‘quality’ on reader responses to questions of fairness, sourcing, information, and context (among others),

    How do you keep people from gaming the system by giving higher accuracy or fairness ratings to sources that produce views or outlooks similar to their own?

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  • http://www.thiswayplease.com/extra-extra/ FredR

    As a counterpoint to all the homage, Michela Wrong points out that Kapuscinski’s carelessness with facts and tendency to generalise did not endear him to readers in Africa. However, she says “A writer who can turn the footage of our lives that hardly ever makes the final cut into the vibrant essence of his work deserves to be read”.

  • EnglishIan in France

    It made me laugh to hear a foreign correspondent for the International Herald Tribune admit on air that in fact when it came to informing himself he couldn’t even name his own newspaper, which has to be, by any measure, the most international general interest newspaper of any in the world, in outlook, perspective, coverage, distribution and readers. In fact he couldn’t even mention any newspaper at all, not even his own. I think this highlights a certain problem with what exactly he thinks he is doing if the paper he contributes to can’t be cited as a good source.

    I would make some further points:

    1) the ‘traditional’ sites he lists are nothing more than low budget, low quality local English language newspapers of which there are many and not many are very good, if we are to judge them by the standards of objectivity, balance and a clear division of opinion and fact (this includes all the UK press incidentally)

    2) the IHT, to which I subcribe daily, is by far the best general interest offering out there if you are interested in international news, and it is available in the USA, although its owner the NYT, likes to keep this deliberately quiet so as not to harm sales of the NYT national edition.

    The IHT has access to the entire NYT foreign correspondent network (all rivalled by a handful of other newspapers: FAZ in Germany, Le Monde (more emphasis on Africa), the WP, and of course the two business newspapers the FT and the WSJ. The Times of London for example has I think about only 10 full time fully staffed, permanent foreign correspondents last time I checked and I’d bet a dollar that number has decreased, not increased.

    In addition the IHT has its own excellent network of foreign correspondents all over the world, including in Washington. Chris is SO out of touch on this newspaper mentioning people like Art Bloody Buchwald, who is DEAD.

    John Vinocur is still stirring it up but people like Vicki Shannon (Technology) and James Kanter (European business) are new role models.

    Reading the IHT is as close to travelling the world in half an hour than any other media and it hands down beats the NYT or the WP for foreign coverage.

    3) Chris also completely failed to understand the point of a foreign correspondent.

    It isn’t someone who can be parachuted into an international situation like that dreadful woman who works for CNN International and come up with a blistering yarn (all these people do is recycle the prevailing line among parachuted in correspondents like themselves, stringers, and fixers). A proper foreign correspondent is someone who lives in the country, for several years, and does their reporting not by consulting netvibes every morning Mr. Crampton, but getting out there and hitting the phones and working the streets and their contact books and finding out wha the hell is going on. This is what the NYT folks excel at, as do those of the IHT.

    4) Where they differ to bloggers is that, even if they havent lived in the country they report all their lives, they have lived there long enough to know who is who and what the hell is going on. Secondly they have immediate and top level access to any number of senior governement, political, ngo, security and business contacts, as well as a good feel and understanding for the person on the street.

    John Vinocur in Paris can pick up the phone and get a personal conversation, off the record, with the French prime minister or president for example, or one of their senior aides. Few, actually I doubt any, French bloggers can.

    When are people going to understand that most bloggers are just like you and I, and if you live in the USA how qualified are you to report to the world the news in the USA. Do you have access to the White House, the CIA, the heads of Fortune 100 companies. I seriously doubt it. Hence we like mainstream media foreign correspondents, not forgetting, last but not least, that if they work for a newspaper like the IHT they are objective, trained journalists, who speak the language and who are there to assemble facts, not push their views, and are trained not to mix fact with personal opinion in their reporting.

    I think the entire nature of Chris’s debate on this topic was lamentably ill-informed and out of touch, which I have to say is not something I ever much find to be the case.

    I’ll conclude by advising anyone to subscribe to the IHT at http://www.iht.com and find out that foreign correspondents are alive and well and in one hell of a lot better health than the current or projected blog scene.

    As Crampton did manage to remember to say about his job and his employer, a paper like the IHT is better than spending hours trawling the net because, with the normal reservations anyone would have about any corporate owned institution, you can TRUST it.

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  • Psychodopolous

    Mimemorandum.com?

    The show participant from Israel mentioned a news aggregation that she checks every day, repeatedly, but didn’t spell it out.

    I went looking for it today, and I’m pretty sure that I’m not coming up with it. She prounounced it “Mee-Morandum” every time. Nothing under the spelling “mimorandum.” “Memeorandum” does produce a “memorandum.com.” This is, indeed, a news aggregator. But it’s limited to the USA, limited to politics, and as of right now, has much more hard right content than left (although there’s some stuff from the left, but I had to search to find it).

    Somehow, I don’t think that this is what she was talking about. Can any of you point me to the real site?

    Thanks.

    Richard

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