Perspectives

Foreign Correspondents Have Played Critical Roles in American Journalism


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The concept of using foreign correspondents housed in other countries to help inform the American public of the news is a concept that goes back to Colonial days.
Yet today, news organizations have drastically cut back on full-time correspondents abroad opting instead for a smaller reporting corps and the use of free-lancers and citizen journalists.
So says long-time journalists and authors John Maxwell Hamilton and Peter Copeland as they discussed the history, present and future of using foreign correspondents to report news to America.
Hamilton claims that Colonists re-published the news from newspapers abroad that arrived in the Colonies on ships. He says that the interest in the American public, at that time, was high to learn of news from the homelands of immigrants.
Foreign correspondents also were used to convey news in the 19th Century and on through the 20th Century, according to Hamilton. He believes, however, that the pinnacle of the status of the foreign correspondent was between World War I and World War II.
Copeland states unfortunately that news organizations started cutting foreign correspondent staffs as a cost cutting measure at the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st Century. He notes that now news organizations are relying more and more on freelance correspondents or citizen reporting through smart phones.
He notes that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to check the accuracy of the some citizen reporting from world hotspots, thereby making accurate reporting difficult, at times.
Hamilton is the Hopkins P. Breazeale Professor in Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Journalism and a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, in Washington, D.C. He also was the founding dean of the Manship School and served as executive vice chancellor and provost at LSU.
His most recent book is “Journalism’s Roving Eye” that won the Goldsmith Prize.
Copeland has been a reporter for four decades and has covered everything from local crime stories to foreign news as a correspondent. He most recently was the editor and general manager of the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C.
His latest book has just been released. It is “Finding the News: Adventures of a Young Reporter.” It is a recount of part of Copeland’s career but it also offers advice for aspiring young journalists.