Five years ago, the American Journalism Review found that 18 newspapers and two chains had closed every one of their foreign bureaus over the previous 12 years. A year later, the Columbia Journalism Review cited a rash of credential inflation for newspaper overseas “bureaus” that housed just one journalist. Last year, McClatchy announced plans to close its foreign bureaus.
The practical impact of those closures? Listen to Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, who is profiled in this week’s New York Times Magazine:
All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus. Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.
Recent weeks have brought better news on this front, as the New York Times has announced a big investment in international coverage, and the Tribune Co. announced plans to expand the Los Angeles Times’ coverage via bureaus in Hong Kong, Seoul, Rio de Janiero, Mumbai, Lagos, Moscow and Mexico City.