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U.S. foreign correspondents once shaped America’s world view; Now Russian, Chinese replacements do

by WorldTribune Staff, September 11, 2018

The American foreign correspondent began to disappear as U.S. media outlets began cutting and shutting down overseas bureaus in the late 1990s into the 2010s. That left much of the reporting on global news to state-run and far from free media outlets in places like Russia and China.

Author Markos Kounalakis, in his new book “Spin Wars and Spy Games: Global Media and Intelligence Gathering”, said he was inspired to write the book when he “noticed that the business model in both American and Western journalism was collapsing and that we were having fewer and fewer foreign correspondents around the world.”

During his research for the book, Kounalakis said he “actually found out that there were more foreign correspondents in the world rather than fewer. The difference, of course, was that they weren’t our foreign correspondents. They were mainly from China and also from Russia. And so my question arose: If on the one hand we’re losing intelligence and diplomatic capacities and at the same time the Chinese and the Russians are gaining capacities, then of course there must be some effect on foreign affairs and policy.”

Many major U.S. news organizations cut their world staffs and now rely upon wire services such as the Associated Press and Reuters for most of their international coverage. Media analysts also noted that most international coverage in the U.S. is dedicated to news that primarily affects Americans.

In a 2015 survey of foreign news coverage, the American Journalism Review (AJR) found 18 newspapers and two newspaper chains closed all of their overseas bureaus between the years of 1998 and 2010. Most of the organizations now rely upon wire services for the bulk of their international coverage, the AJR reported.

A 2008 report from the Pew Research Center entitled, “The Changing Newsroom,” noted that, over a three-year span, 64 percent of newsroom executives reported a reduction in the amount of space apportioned to foreign news.

The Tyndall Report, which monitors the weekday nightly newscasts of ABC, CBS and NBC reported that when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, ABC, CBS and NBC devoted a collective 4,828 minutes to international news. By 2000, after ten years of declining coverage, the same three networks aired only 2,127 minutes of international news during newscasts that totaled between 14,500 and 16,000 minutes.

Kounalakis, a visiting fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and a senior fellow at the Budapest-based Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University, told The Washington Times that he was concerned “for the state of our democracy but also for foreign policymaking, because I knew that policymakers and analysts rely on foreign correspondents and bureaus to provide their work on a regular basis. … I was curious about what happens when we don’t have as many American journalists out in the field.”

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