The Twilight of Foreign Correspondents?

February 21, 2011 • Digital News • by

What will the future of international news look like in the era of blogs, Facebook and Twitter?

Are globalization and new media to be seen as threats or opportunities for foreign correspondents? These and other essential questions are answered by veteran journalist and director of BBC World Service Richard Sambrook in “Are Foreign Correspondents Redundant?” a report published by the Reuters Institute. Sambrook analyses the extent to which economic challenges, globalization and new technologies have altered international news coverage throughout the past 120 years.  

With regard to economic pressure, Sambrook addresses the onslaught of new demands foreign correspondents face from media owners. The ideal of informing the public is increasingly reduced due to time constraints and cost minimization. “Journalism met the market and found it uncomfortable,” says Sambrook as he emphasizes the need for a new model of media financing to reconcile the pursuit of news with the quality of traditional, in-depth journalism.

Another challenge can be found in the development of new digital technologies, in addition to the rising popularity of blogs, news aggregators and social media. Instead of searching for foreign coverage in traditional media, people are now able to obtain news from amateur blogs and local websites featuring on-the-scene reportage. Sambrook notes, however, that descriptions of situations arriving from parties directly involved can pose the threat of one-sidedness, a danger avoided by professional, journalistic coverage. He posits that foreign correspondents may meet the challenges of the digital era via the “networked journalism” model, which involves close cooperation between journalists and their audiences.  

The effects of globalization pose further obstacles for foreign correspondents.  Increasing pressures on news organizations to ensure that newsroom staff and newsgathering accurately reflect the changing multicultural world provide greater incentive to employ local staff overseas. This, as is the case with most  trends in journalism, brings both opportunities and risks, with safety concerns and intimidation weighing in.

In attempting to answer the question posed in the report’s title, Sambrook states that although foreign correspondents are by no means redundant, “they will be very different from their predecessors and work in very different ways to serve the digital news environment of the twenty-first century.”

Find the full report here.

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