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Sept. 9, 2010, 2 p.m.

An attention deficit: Ethan Zuckerman on the supply and demand of foreign news

[Our sister publication Nieman Reports is out with its latest issue, which focuses on the current state of international reporting. There are lots of interesting articles — check out the whole issue — but we’re highlighting a few that line up with our subject matter here at the Lab. Here’s Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of Global Voices and friend of the Lab, writing about the demand side of foreign news. —Josh]

As news organizations wrestle with the challenge of discovering profitable reporting models for a digital age, at least three types of public service journalism are endangered species—investigative reporting, in-depth statehouse and city government coverage, and foreign coverage. Expensive to produce, they have been subsidized by more profitable facets of news operations. While online news producers like ProPublica and Voice of San Diego offer promising new models to sustain investigative and local government reporting, less experimentation—though some—is being directed at sustaining high-quality international coverage on digital platforms. If greater attention is not paid to this circumstance, we may soon reach a time when the foreign correspondent is a relic from a past age of journalism.

My colleague Solana Larsen offers a provocative suggestion that the end of the foreign correspondent model might be a good thing. Too often, foreign correspondents parachute into unfamiliar situations and offer a view that’s insufficiently informed by the facts on the ground and is overly influenced by the biases of the audience they’re speaking to. The rise of participatory media and the flowering of independent press around the world gives us alternatives to the foreign correspondent: We can listen to local journalists (professional and citizen) who report on the situation in their countries through local eyes, relying on local knowledge.

I share Larsen’s passion for amplifying independent voices to a global audience. But I am less sanguine than she at the prospect of losing the foreign correspondent.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

POSTED     Sept. 9, 2010, 2 p.m.
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