Ethan’s recent post entitled “300 foreign correspondents overseas. And 3,000 in Washington DC?” made for interesting reading. The post was inspired by an Open Source show entitled “The End of the Foreign Correspondent?”
In my opinion, the problem of cutbacks in staffing foreign bureaus is compounded by the focus on the same old gloom and doom or trite stories when coverage is provided (any guesses as to how many foreign correspondents are covering the war in Iraq vs. the relatively calm post-election situation in DRC). One example, several months ago I was approached by a journalist from a very well-respected international paper. The journalist (a foreign correspondent in the East Africa bureau) wanted to do a piece on Mzalendo as an example of how Kenyans are trying to improve accountability within government etc. I spent almost two hours chatting with the guy. The story has never made it to the press. Last I heard, it was shelved because of the Madonna adoption brouhahaha. Maybe Mzalendo just wasn’t a compelling enough story. Or maybe, God forbid, it was actually a positive story about Africa that didn’t tie back to some massive donor/NGO intiative or that didn’t involve overcoming disease, war, insert tragedy here ____________.
Anyway, I was going somewhere with this post.
In, response to the cutbacks in foreign correspondents, Ethan likes Rebecca MacKinnon’s notion of “glocal” coverage i.e. global stories with a local connection. Ethan writes, “What could be a better resource for this than bilingual journalists living and working in DC with connections to their home communities? Who’s going to do a better job of reporting on Somalia in the USA than the Somali reporters covering their country in their native language for an audience in Somalia?”
I ask, how about staffing foreign bureaus with local journalists? It might not always be practical in all cases but it could be an interesting model. For instance, SABC Africa (their website sucks, but I find their coverage of African news especially in the a.m. and their specials on Africa, to be quite good) has hired Linus Kaikai (a Kenyan journalist) to head their office in Kenya and has adopted a similar model in other African countries where they have offices. Every couple of months someone from the head office in Joburg travels to the bureaus to make sure things are going well etc.
Now that’s glocal.