How we got here
By Sonia Paul
The legacy correspondent
It’s an image iconic in newsrooms and living rooms alike: the foreign correspondent, notepad or microphone in hand, reporting from exotic locales on dramatic events. The foreign correspondent brought the Vietnam War into America’s homes in the 1960s, and delivers today’s news from China, or Venezuela, or South Africa, to any platform you want: TV, radio, print, online.
But for years, conventional wisdom has told us international reporting is in decline. The economic model that has sustained legacy journalism, the long-established pillars of mainstream news, is broken. Closing costly overseas bureaus has been one response to the financial crisis. A 2011 report from the American Journalism Review found that U.S. print media outlets employed 307 full time foreign correspondents in 2003. That number trickled down to 234 in 2011 — a 24 percent decline. And from 1998 to 2011, 20 U.S. news outlets completely eliminated their foreign desks.
But the decline of the foreign correspondent is only part of the story. Journalism is not just facing a financial crisis, but an identity crisis as well. The emergence of Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005 and Twitter in 2006 introduced a whole new swath of journalists — citizens — whose passions and technological capabilities enabled them to tell stories many traditional foreign correspondents often left uncovered. The definitions of journalist and journalism are changing as technology democratizes news reporting, news consumption and news understanding.
We are in an age of post-legacy media.
The new correspondents
It’s an age where audiences no longer need to depend on the foreign correspondent to be the gatekeeper for international news. They can stream news online from international outlets like Al Jazeera and the BBC, or read stories off the beaten path from newcomers like the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, GlobalPost.com, ForeignPolicy.com or The Atlantic.com’s global channel.
White House says options for dealing with Syria use of chem weapons include, but aren’t inclusive to, military force. – Reuters
— Andy Carvin (@acarvin) April 26, 2013
Or they turn to social media, and follow Twitter accounts like that of NPR’s Andy Carvin — or @acarvin to his thousands of Twitter followers. Some say he redefined reporting by vetting and retweeting tweets from activists, citizens and journalists during the 2011 Arab revolutions. And he continues to do the same for breaking news all over the world.
Or, as 15 percent of U.S. adults already do, according to the 2013 Pew State of the Media report, audiences can rely on news links that friends and family post on Facebook or other social media — and likely follow these links to read a full news story on whatever external site it happens to be on.
Are we better off?
Legacy journalism may be in decline, but there’s no shortage of sources for international news. The voices and technologies of nontraditional journalists are capturing the attention of global media outlets, who use their raw material as sources for mainstream stories. But the nontraditional journalists also reach out directly to audiences, sending unfiltered reports that make up what we’ve called The New Global Journalism.
In this project we ask you to take a step back and consider more thoughtfully the current state of global media. The new gatekeeper of international news, now, is you.