The role and nature of the foreign correspondent is undergoing a significant change and even the BBC – arguably the world’s largest provider of international news content – is rethinking its approach to sending journalists abroad. In this post we explore what foreign correspondents do and why, and we look at new ways of doing things.
We’ll start with the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corp) special 2012 documentary celebrating 20 years -from 1992- on the air of Foreign Correspondent, one of the most important programs of/on foreign correspondents in the world, the transcript of a radio debate at the Australian state radio in 2008 in a program on foreign correspondents that died several years ago and a video-chatt organized by the Columbia School of Journalism and Reuters in April 2012.
Change can be instant or it can creep like a glacier. It can arrive dramatically with a clash of cymbals or slowly, imperceptibly insinuate itself into our lives. However it rolls, it is inevitable.
At Foreign Correspondent we aimed our cameras at interesting places and faces, confounding dramas and appalling inhumanities and, when all seemed overwhelming, we witnessed uplifting, redemptive dignities. We asked hard questions, simple questions, silly questions outsiders ask and when we got lost we asked directions.
We went to places people yearned to go to, on to places few people cared about, and every now and then to places where few had gone before – at least those armed with television equipment, curiosity and a bossy producer. Wherever we went, we returned with something worthwhile.
We were there at defining times, made our excuses at inconsequential times, tried our best to get to vital, important global moments and along the way missed the odd connecting flight.
As Foreign Correspondent has made its way through 20 turbulent years, we’ve documented some astonishing times and amassed a sweeping, catalogue of material. As we reflect it’s only now abundantly clear that the big, enduring star of the show has been change.
Thanks for watching with us.
Executive producer, Foreign Correspondent
- Broadcast by Australian Broadcasting Corp National Radio: Thursday 4 December 2008 8:30AM
- (view full episode)
- Sophie McNeill
- Journalist, Dateline, SBS TV
- Richard Sambrook
- Director of Global News Division, BBC
- Solana Larsen
- Managing Editor, ‘Global Voices’
- Mark Bowling
- Journalist, ABC
- Ginny Stein
- Journalist,SBS TV
Antony Funnell: Hello, and welcome to The Media Report.
I’m Antony Funnell and this is ABC Radio National.
On today’s program, the future of the foreign correspondent.
We’ll examine what they do and why. And we’ll also look at the way their role is, and has been changing.
Let’s start with a provocation: by 2013 there will be no more foreign correspondents.
Those words caused something of a stir in international media circles when they were delivered earlier this year at a conference in Los Angeles.
Now they’re not my words, that prediction was actually made by Solana Larsen, who co-edits an interesting online news site called Global Voices.
Solana admits her comments were designed to stir things up a bit, to get established media organisations thinking about new ways of doing things.
Solana Larsen: There will always be a space for it in certain foreign correspondents who do amazing things and write amazingly, or – and the travelling writer will never be outdated. What I’m talking about is this type of parachute journalism where somebody flies into a country, a journalist, is there maybe for two, three days, and pretends to know what’s going on. Maybe he doesn’t even speak the local language, maybe he isn’t able to read local newspapers. The idea that he would know more about what’s going on, is a little bit absurd to me. I think that qualified local journalists speaking to an international audience would be capable of coming to a much more nuanced perspective, definitely a perspective that’s probably more true to what people who live in these places are actually experiencing.
Antony Funnell: Solana Larsen.
Now not everybody in the traditional media business who heard Solana’s words was affronted or felt threatened.
Richard Sambrook could see sense in what she had to say about the need for news outlets to make better use of so-called ‘local voices’.
And who is Richard Sambrook? Well, he’s the director of the Global News Division at the BBC, responsible for all their international news services across radio, television and new media.
Richard Sambrook: Well the BBC has always prided itself on having an extensive network of foreign correspondents and bureaux. We see that first-hand, eye-witness reporting has always been a core part of what we do. So we’ve had something like 45 bureaux and about 200 staff based internationally.
However I do think that that is beginning to change, and it’s driven by a number of factors, primarily new technology, which means that the kind of traditional big bureau with television crews and editing teams and so on, in a sense is being surpassed by the ability of a single person with a laptop and a camera to do more or less the same job. So the technology’s transforming what a foreign correspondent is able to do, and of course being able to actually service the internet, as well as radio and television and so on, also fundamentally changes the nature of the job. So that’s one thing…more
[youtube]http://youtu.be/nNKQqdN-7TQ[/youtube] Columbia Journalism Review & Reuters present: «Covering the Globe», a debate on the crisis in international news coverage that took place on April 11, 2012 at the Reuters Institute.
Dan Rosenblum reviewed and summarized the event for the digital CAPITAL
A recent study ranked the job of newspaper reporter at 196, right above lumberjack, soldier and dairy farmer.
Last night Chrystia Freeland, digital editor for Thomson Reuters, brought that up in a panel discussion about what most of her fellow panelists seemed to agree was a crisis in international news coverage.
«I think that ranking does speak to the real disruption that we’re living through and one of the areas that are most, I think, in jeopardy because of that is foreign coverage,” she said.
It can be unsafe; it can be incredibly hard. And taking posts all over the world for news organizations whose future seemed infinite, and in which upward mobility was assumed, is a far different thing from working for an expensive foreign bureau that might be shuttered at any moment… MORE