Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Global view

This map of where the Washington Post stations foreign correspondents sat at the side of a web page, not drawing attention to itself, but interesting nonetheless. I know newspapers (perhaps especially one whose economic well being depends on a test prep company) are in decline these days. But apparently nothing much that matters is expected to happen in all of sub-equatorial Latin America, or sub-Saharan Africa aside from Kenya, or Indonesia which is home to the world's largest Muslim population, or even the continent of Australia. Or, for that matter, even in our huge neighbor to the north.

I decided to look at where some other notable papers have staff. The American Journalism Review reported a census of foreign correspondents in early 2011.

Not surprisingly the New York Times has a goodly crop of bureaus -- and unlike the Wapo, they have people in West Africa (Dakar), Jakarta, Johannesburg, and Sao Paulo. That's a bit bigger world. The Wall Street Journal reaches into a few more places including Buenos Aires and Lagos.

But if you really want reach in your news, the most extensive coverage will come from Bloomberg News with global staff of more than 2,300 in 146 bureaus (101 are foreign) in 72 countries. They have extensive staff in all of Latin America and sprinkled across Africa. And they shine in covering what they call "Asia Pacific" with bureaus in Melbourne and Sydney and even in Wellington, New Zealand.

Does this matter? After all, if something unexpected erupts anywhere in the world, journalists can parachute in at a moments' notice. And they will. And these are usually serious professionals who try to give their audience an accurate picture of what they encounter. But is our "globalized world" actually still quite small, our information constrained by commercial concerns? After all, we in the United States are notoriously uninterested in people who live in foreign lands. It probably will never pay to have a bureau in Kinshasa, even though millions have died over the last decade in the ongoing war in the Congo.

No conclusions -- just awareness that the world is so much bigger and more diverse than the picture of it that a moderately conscientious citizen can expect to derive from the media.

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