The foreign correspondent is the new dodo

Foreign correspondents for American newspapers have become a dying breed, with their number sliding repeatedly in recent years. Jack Welch doesn't even own the Globe yet, but yesterday, management brought the axe down on all of its foreign bureaus. This bad news comes on the heels of a report written by The Christian Science Monitor's ...

Foreign correspondents for American newspapers have become a dying breed, with their number sliding repeatedly in recent years. Jack Welch doesn't even own the Globe yet, but yesterday, management brought the axe down on all of its foreign bureaus.

This bad news comes on the heels of a report written by The Christian Science Monitor's Jill Carroll, best known for being kidnapped in Iraq and held for 80 days. Carroll found that in 2000, American newspapers employed 282 foreign correspondents. Following 9/11, that number went up slightly, to 304. Then, newspapers like the  Baltimore Sun and New York's Newsday (both owned by the Tribune) shut down overseas bureaus. So in 2006, that number fell by more than 20 percent to only 249. Today, with the Globe's announcement, that makes roughly 239. By my calculations, that means that there is only one foreign correspondent per 1.3 million people in the United States.

Paradoxically, Carroll finds that people who are interested in original, international news tend to be highly-educated with greater incomes, making them attractive to advertisers. (The Wall Street Journal seems to get it—nearly half of U.S. newspapers' foreign correspondents work there.) Why does this matter? Carroll concludes with a plea:

Foreign correspondents for American newspapers have become a dying breed, with their number sliding repeatedly in recent years. Jack Welch doesn't even own the Globe yet, but yesterday, management brought the axe down on all of its foreign bureaus.

This bad news comes on the heels of a report written by The Christian Science Monitor's Jill Carroll, best known for being kidnapped in Iraq and held for 80 days. Carroll found that in 2000, American newspapers employed 282 foreign correspondents. Following 9/11, that number went up slightly, to 304. Then, newspapers like the  Baltimore Sun and New York's Newsday (both owned by the Tribune) shut down overseas bureaus. So in 2006, that number fell by more than 20 percent to only 249. Today, with the Globe's announcement, that makes roughly 239. By my calculations, that means that there is only one foreign correspondent per 1.3 million people in the United States.

Paradoxically, Carroll finds that people who are interested in original, international news tend to be highly-educated with greater incomes, making them attractive to advertisers. (The Wall Street Journal seems to get it—nearly half of U.S. newspapers' foreign correspondents work there.) Why does this matter? Carroll concludes with a plea:

As a world power, we have a moral obligation to use our influence responsibly and  thoughtfully. […] The media is an important part in making that happen. The quality of the information provided by the news media determins to a large extent the quality of the national debate and resulting policies. Having many sources of good quality, in-depth, insightful, well-informed foreign reporting is essential to keep the national debate vigorous and churning.

Christine Y. Chen is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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