The news business – at least in many advance democracies – is in a kind of crisis. Though the Great Recession added to the woes of many news organizations, financial pressures have been building for a much longer time period. Declining print circulations, the squeeze of free content online, and intense pressure from investors are just a few of the dimensions of the crisis. For many organizations, foreign news budgets have been a prime target for cuts.
In a more inter-dependent and globalized world we need more and not fewer foreign correspondents. Blogging and social media reporting only goes so far. Without reporters around the globe, prominent newspapers and broadcast channels are forced to rely on wire services such as the Associated Press and Reuters for a growing portion of their coverage. (Too many outlets are also overly focused on commentary and punditry, which often does little to inform the public of world events.)
There is nothing inherently wrong with wire services – and both the AP and Reuters do fine work – but there are dangers in relying on a shrinking pool of reporters. Sadly, many news consumers are not very attuned to this downsizing of foreign news.
We need more news organizations that model the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). No, I’m not necessarily calling for more public funding of journalism. The BBC is actually an outlier in the degree of separation it maintains from the British government; public broadcasters as propaganda purveyors are quite common in the world. What should be emulated is the excellent breadth of geographic coverage that the BBC maintains, even in an age of austerity. The London-based organization has long been known for having its own correspondents in most countries of the world. In comparison, CNN and National Public Radio (of the USA) don’t come close to the density of place-rooted reporters. Long live the BBC (model).
*** Did you like what you read here? You might be interested in the new book by this blog’s author, Failed States: Realities, Risks, and Responses.