The Future of Foreign Correspondents The Future Role of Foreign Correspondents in the New Age Media Introduction The explicit role of a foreign correspondent is to act, in the new age media, as the “middle man”, an intermediary between countries. The importance of this role is highlighted by the detrimental impacts of globalisation. In one respect, many hypothesis that the foreign correspondent is an “endangered species”. In world where at the click of a button citizens can report and inform past their own national borders many question the necessity of international reporting. With technological discoveries on the rise, “the old model of international reporting” is transforming and challenging the role of foreign correspondents world wide. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many commentators rejoice in this new age media: increased productivity and efficiency, broader scope and easier access to information. Nonetheless, it is clear that the future of foreign correspondents is evolving. In the following report we will discuss the impacts cost, technology and globalisation and public interest has on the future of foreign reporters. The Impact Cost has on the Employment of Foreign Correspondents For newspapers, a rise in costs has dramatically impacted on Foreign Bureaus and the global role of foreign correspondents. As Andrew Currah postulates: ‘no matter how powerful the philanthropic spirit or quest for power, the practical costs of journalism demand a robust economic model (which is looking increasingly unstable in the present context’. And so, in our “hyper-mediated” world, the increasingly high costs of foreign reporting positions foreign correspondents and bureaus at the forefront of budget cuts. In a 2007 study for the Harvard Joan Shorenstein Center by Jill Carroll, ‘Foreign News Coverage: The US Media’s Undervalued Asset’, Carroll reveals that to run a basic foreign Bureau costs an annual average of $200-300,000. According to one UK correspondent, on the ground, the cost of a single story, when including fixers/translators is £5-6,000. Further, between 2000 to 2006 there was a 30% decrease in small US newspapers and a 10% decline in larger news corporations. And so, the fear held by many commentators and journalists alike is that with the shrinking of foreign posts abroad and international reporting there will be an exponential decline in the quantity and quality of the news. However, authors Hamilton and Jenner disagree with this consensus: “…do these perceived declines [in traditional FCs] accurately measure the quantity and quality of foreign reporting that actually exists? We think not. The alarm, we propose, is based on an anachronistic and static model of what foreign correspondence is and who foreign correspondents are”. The Media Alliance Trust took a study on the number of foreign desks and correspondents in a number of newspapers. The Daily Mirror and The Sun do not have a foreign desk. The Daily Mail, however, has 10 foreign correspondents whereas the Guardian and the Observer have 18 correspondents. An editor of the Guardian attests that although there is a rise in journalist staff the rate of foreign correspondents has remained constant. The Telegraph has 20 foreign correspondents and like the Guardian and Observer have foreign desks worldwide in countries like Tokyo and the USA. According to, PewResearch, Washington has, as a result of growing technology and national issues, at least 40% of all foreign correspondents in the world. Ultimately, from the data above it can be assumed that the future employment of foreign correspondents is highly influenced by cost. VIDEO: Michael Crutcher at by Harriet Allan The Affect Technology and Globalisation has the transformation of Foreign Correspondents Globalisation, the “growing interconnectedness of the world”, through the expansion of mass media communication hugely impacts on the futures of foreign correspondents abroad. Specifically, the continual advancements in technology have altered the way in which foreign correspondents act as intermediaries in our world. The rise of online newspapers and citizen journalism, through social media, has reconstructed what it means to be an international reporter. However, many commentators argue that this has lead to a shrinking of the “original journalism profession”. Undoubtedly, technology technology is changing the way information is obtained and increasing productivity and quantity of foreign news. An international reporter partnered with a phone and laptop can achieve instant news coverage from anywhere around the world. And so, commentators agree that in the new age media the greater technological opportunities gives rise to the evolution of freelance journalism. The escalation of social media allows freelancers and independent persons to no longer be dependant on news organisations to obtain and spread information. That being so, although the rapid advancement in technology allows for “speed and vividness” when foreign reporting reduces time spent by reporters to “watch, think, listen and compose”. Jerusalem Correspondent and Former Foreign Editor at the Guardian Harriet Sherwood questions the ability of foreign correspondents to keep up with today’s new media platform. She states: “The wire services … provide comprehensive, rapidly updated and usually accurate coverage of the main news events on a given day. So a correspondent’s role is surely to go beyond that, to dig out the stories that aren’t immediate ‘news’, to provide context and analysis, to allow those whose voices are routinely drowned out by the big ‘players’ to be heard. But that requires an investment of time (and often money) which inevitably has become harder with the instant and constant demands of digital journalism”. In a Reuter Danish Study, as shown in Figure One, it was found that the employment of international reporters is on the decline. Between 1998 to 2012, foreign reporters in the foreign reporters decreased in from 60 to 39. This clearly exhibits a rise in technological advancement and a decline in the necessary foreign correspondents. Therefore, technology and globalisation are determining factors when considering the future of foreign correspondents. The Influence Public Interest has in the Production of Foreign News and by extension Foreign Correspondents The transformation of the foreign correspondent is hugely influenced by trends within the media. In a globalised world, however, the importance and value of international news and reporting is paramount. With the increasing interconnectedness through communication, migration and travel the issues in Asia, the USA and Europe directly impact everyday lives. Academics, Journalists and Politicians alike all aspire to educate everyday citizens, to help people to understand global issues. However, the question remains: In comparison to celebrity gossip and ‘headline’ pieces is the public interest really interested? The PewResearch Journalism Project did a study on the “changing content: what topics are losing space and resources”. The goal of PewResearch is to evaluate the state of the media and information produced in the new digital platform. Figure Two shows a data visualisation tool known as an infograpic. On the right hand side, the three circles represent the positions of newsroom executives in regards to foreign news. The blue circle represents 65% of newsroom executives who say their foreign news coverage has dropped over the last three years. The orange circle portrays the 46% of newsroom executives who have reduced resources, given to foreign correspondents, over the last three years. And lastly, the light blue circle symbolises the 10% of newsroom executives who deem foreign reporting to be “very essential”. The left hand-side shows the topics of public interest in the news from 1986-2006. On average, 39% of people “very closely” follow disasters, 34% Money, 33% Conflict, 22% Political News, 18% Tabloid News and lastly Foreign News is only “very closely” covered by 17% of people. Reuters Editor of Political and General News Sean Maguire delves into why in order to promote public interest and faith the number of foreign correspondents have decreased: “We employ a lot fewer Brits than we used to as we shift further away from the old colonial/commonwealth model of white males spending a career moving from assignment to assignment. Apart from cost, issues of equity and fairness in employment are driving that shift. Additionally news consumers … demand higher levels of instant expertise in reporting – to deliver that you need correspondents who speak a local language, are immersed in local political and economic life”. Therefore, it is clear from the data above that foreign news is on the decline and by extension the role of foreign correspondents is in jeopardy. Foreign correspondents play a significant role within the media. Irrespective of positive aspects of the new digital age and globalisation, cost and public interest weigh heavily on the future of foreign correspondents. It is clear that foreign correspondents must evolve with the new digital era otherwise their important role as a mediated, a bridge of cultural understanding will be undermined. Figure One Figure Two


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