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Foreign bureaus increasingly irrelevant in a wired world 5/25/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in American Journalism Review, Foreign bureaus.
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To cover foreign affairs, newspapers in colonial America waited for ships to arrive from Europe, unloaded the European newspapers that were aboard, then reprinted the articles. It was not a perfect system in regards to the freshness of news or copyright laws, but it reflected a certain Yankee sensibility. After all, who is going to do a better job covering news from across the pond — a handful of individuals whose lives straddle Europe and America or multitudes of individuals with both feet planted firmly in Europe? In today’s globalized and wired world, where news travels at the speed of light and English is spoken just about everywhere, what possible basis could there be for American papers to maintain bureaus at any foreign location where journalists are plentiful, the press is free, and it would be business-foolish to invest in the types of resources that might generate an exclusive story? This article from the American Journalism Review claims that newspaper publisher “McClatchy deserves props for keeping the foreign staff [of recently acquired newspaper chain] Knight Ridder,” and a McClatchy exec is quoted, affirming this “wisdom” and accepting the compliment. But, surely he must realize that those who don’t take advantage of Internet technology to improve the quality and reduce the cost of both foreign and domestic news will soon find themselves strangers in a strange land.

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