Courtesy Reuters

The New Foreign Correspondence


Until quite recently, only a few news organizations had the capacity to gather and disseminate reports on international events and issues. Those interested in international affairs gleaned what they could from whatever these newspapers, newsmagazines, or network news programs offered. The audience-generalized and passive-routinely received small amounts of overseas coverage.

Laments about the inadequate amount of international news coverage span back to the end of World War II. "That the overseas press ranks should be thinned at the end of the war was only natural," wrote one foreign correspondent at the time, "but that the dilution should be so complete as to eliminate eight out of every nine foreign correspondents is another matter." The post-Cold War era has seen renewed hand-wringing as a result of greater declines in the number of traditional correspondents based overseas and in the print space and broadcast time devoted to international news (except during crises). Explanations for this trend-the high costs of maintaining correspondents overseas and the aggressive bottom-line goals of publicly held media companies-suggest that it is not likely to be reversed any time soon.

The persistent emphasis on traditional foreign correspondents is understandable considering that foreign policy elites are accustomed to relying on-and celebrating-these reporters. Unfortunately, these old habits distract students of foreign affairs from the emergence of new forms of foreign correspondence.

Although not yet well understood, technology-driven changes are reshaping international news flows by lowering the economic barriers of entry to publishing and broadcasting and encouraging the proliferation of nontraditional international news sources. The audience-now fragmented and active-is far better able to choose and even shape the news. Consequently, a broader definition of foreign correspondence and of foreign correspondents is required to assess what consumers of news now know about the world.


To start, the Internet has made it possible for media companies to create special foreign news "wires." An obvious example is Bloomberg News, which unlike traditional wire services sells news directly to

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