By: MARK FITZGERALD
HISPANIC JOURNALISTS HAVE a special responsibility to resist the declining coverage U.S. news organizations are giving to the rest of the world, says the director of the Chicago Tribune’s international news reporting.
“As Hispanics, who have one foot in each of two cultures, we are better positioned to know the importance of international news,” George DeLama told the recent National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in Chicago.
“One thing I hope is that as Latinos, as we ascend or assume greater positions in the news industry, that we make this an important issue and one of the things that we bring to the table,” said DeLama, the Tribune’s assistant managing editor for foreign and national news.
However, DeLama and other journalists specializing in foreign news concede it will be an uphill fight.
Americans have never shown much interest in international news ? and the indifference appears to be accelerating.
“The interest in foreign news was bound to decline with the demise of the Soviet Union,” said Joe Contrares, Jerusalem bureau chief for Newsweek magazine.
Contrares has felt that decline personally: When I joined Newsweek 15 years ago, there were about 25 foreign correspondents, he said. Now there are 17.
“In the Mideast, 15 years ago, I would have been one of three correspondents. Now there’s just me,” he said.
The same thing is happening throughout U.S. news organizations.
“There are less than 10 newspapers that still maintain a serious international bureau presence,” Tribune’s DeLama said. “There are only about 400 full-time correspondents working for U.S. media outlets internationally. That’s not a lot of eyes and ears out there.”
There is one big exception to this decline, however: Coverage of international business and finance ? and interest in the coverage among Americans ? is building.
“When you talk about globalization, the first place that happens is in the economy and finance,” said Edward Schumacher, editor for the Wall Street Journal Americas, a news report published in several Latin American newspapers.
With its European and Asian versions, the Journal has 94 reporters overseas, Schumacher said ? and all of them contribute to the U.S. edition. In the last decade, the number of Journal correspondents in Latin America has gone from two to seven. And in just the last month, the paper’s Emerging Markets wire service has expanded from 10 journalists to 27.
That expansion shows Americans are eager to see international news ? if it’s the right kind of international news.
“There is an increasing interest in different kinds of international news, especially finance and business. But relatively obscure wars whose impact on their daily lives are negligible or nonexistent ? there’s no interest in that kind of foreign news,” Newsweek’s Contrares said.
That may be a good thing, some foreign news specialists think.
“One of the things we are trying to overcome is the equation foreign news equals wars or national disasters,” said Carol Hills, director of “The World.” “The World” is a National Public Radio program that combines news coverage by BBC correspondents with American-style production values provided by WGBH in Boston.
Even obscure topics can be made relevant to Americans, the journalists said. One example noted was a recent New York Times story that showed how charitable donations of secondhand clothes by Americans was destroying the African textile industry.
At the same time, other journalists warned that news organizations should not try to become too “relevant” with their international coverage.
“I don’t think you want to hold up a mirror to our readers, and show only themselves and what is relevant,” said the Tribune’s DeLama. “What we want to
Chicago Tribune editor urges Latino colleagues ? contrary to what most U.S. papers are doing ? to increase
international news coverage
“There are less than 10 newspapers that still maintain a
serious international bureau presence. There are only about 400 full-time correspondents working for U.S. media outlets internationally.”
? George DeLama, Chicago Tribune assistant managing editor for foreign and national news hold up to them is the world ? not a reflection of themselves.”
The U.S. has been burned by its ignorance of international affairs, DeLama argued. Among them: the misreading of Saddam Hussein’s intentions in the Persian Gulf even after being a sort of ally for more than a decade.
“Now the same sort of thing is happening in China,” he said.
DeLama’s hope of having Latino journalists lead a renaissance in international news is not likely to be easy, evidence suggests.
For instance, Herb Sierra, general manager of CNN Noticias, a Spanish-language radio news organization, says Americans of whatever national origin appear indifferent to international news.
“Our U.S. affiliates are either not interested in international news or only
want headlines,” he said. “But our Latin American outlets want news from Moscow, from Israel, from Africa . . . . Hispanics in the U.S. become Americanized. They retain their identity, yes, but” acquire the American disinterest in foreign affairs.
?(” There are less than 10 newpapers that still maintain a serious international bureau presence. There are only about 400 full-time correspondents working for U.S. media outlets international.”) [Caption]
?(George DeLama, Chicago Tribune assistant managing editor for foreign and national news) [Photo & Caption]