The whole world is in a terrible state of crisis, and we dont hear much about it.

The foreign correspondent has become a casualty of the economy.  The days of the dashing foreign correspondent, trench-coated and adorned on top with a fedora are long-gone. 

Newspapers which prided themselves on their overseas commitment and the breadth and depth of their coverage have long since shuttered their news bureaux overseas.  So too have networks preferring to import pictures of breaking stories to London to be voiced there before being re-transmitted to New York.

So what’s lost?  The foreign correspondent is dead. Long live the foreign correspondent piece in today’s Guardian by Timothy Garton Ash is a thoughtful, insightful view as to what’s lost when we no longer care (or are willing to pay) to find the news ourselves.

His closing graphs, “For all my experience cries out to me: there is nothing to compare with being there. However many thousands of fantastic clips, blogs and online transcripts you have, there is nothing to compare with being there…

The unique value added by the 20th-century foreign correspondent consisted, at best, in the combination in one person’s experience over time, the considered throughput in a single mind and sensibility, of all three elements: witnessing, deciphering, interpreting. If we can somehow preserve that, in the journalism of our day, then we may yet achieve both more and better foreign news.”

The Guardian story is worth a look…not so much because it breaks a headline about the dearth of competent foreign journalism as much as it is a reminder of what we have lost… and to think about the consequences of our ignorance, a lack of awareness or interpretive appreciation and an absence of understanding.

In 1924 Sean O’Casey ended Juno & the Paycock with the admonition “”th’ whole worl’s in a terrible state o’ chassis”. Never did it seem that was more true than today.

Long live the foreign correspondent.

Author: Peter Shaplen Productions

More than four decades of experience as a journalist, producer, reporter, writer and professor of news, corporate production, crisis management.

3 thoughts on “The whole world is in a terrible state of crisis, and we dont hear much about it.”

  1. While I do agree that there’s no good replacement for quality foreign reporting, there are now all kinds of sites that aggregate local impressions from all over the world, like

    So the ABC News Kransoyarsk bureau is no more (OK, made that one up), but you gain access to the Saudi bloggers and the Sri Lankan activist networks. Perhaps it’s not all gloom and doom?

    1. But will audiences truly seek it out – just that it’s available isn’t sufficient. While I celebrate the greater amount of coverage – professional or not -and that it is aggregated more places – sheer volume is not a substitution for editing and presentation.
      Just as students will accept the first link on Yahoo or Google as gospel is not a good sign of their true curiosity but it is indicative of their lack of perseverance.
      Media used to be about multiple sources – verified – range and breadth – and most of all – editing. Bloggers and activists are great though must be taken in context (simply as they do advocate, “activists” as you say).
      Stating in touch with the world is a seriously business. It takes time. It takes work. For many people who are justifiably busy with the work and lives they neither have the time, inclination, or experience to search out all the available sources. And now, when they do turn to network or established news voices they are hearing reports that are not the equal of what they were or what they deserve. Re-purposed and repackaged 2d hand reporting is not a substitute for what we once had – we once were willing to pay for – and we once benefiitted from knowing.

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