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100 articles – ‘Demise of the Foreign Correspondent’

Foreign correspondent jobs have always been highly sought after. But what is the future of reporting for one's home country from a disant desitnation? As part of our '100 articles' project, James Briggs considers a sobering 2007 Washington Post piece by Pamela Constable.

Demise of the Foreign Correspondent‘ by Pamela Constable

Is one Melbourne footballer’s drunken escapade more newsworthy than 1000 people dying in Iraq? No, this isn’t a rhetorical question, as the answer actually depends upon where you live. Many newspapers adhere to the rule of proximity, which means that a fluffy kitten story from a newspaper’s home region may be considered more ‘newsworthy’ than a hard-hitting piece from across the country.

Constable’s article looks why the number of foreign correspondents for many US newspapers has been decreasing in recent years, and suggests what the possible ramifications may be. Specifically, if this trend continues, how will media outlets continue to provide coverage of important events from around the globe? Is a phone call and email to someone in Pakistan a sufficient substitute to chatting with a Pakistani diplomat?

Although written in 2007, which might be considered ancient history in our current mediascsape, the issues that Constable explores have never been more relevant to journalists than right now. With social networking and Web 2.0 technologies revolutionising journalism, how can we ensure that a poor quality YouTube video and hearsay quotes don’t replace journalists reporting on world news? Constable doesn’t provide us with an answer, leaving open her prediction of all newspapers becoming a ‘barrage of commentary, crawls and celebrity gossip’ is merely the inevitable fate of journalism.

James Briggs is a Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University. To read the ‘100 articles’ list so far, click here.

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