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.