Message to Hispanic Press

Article excerpt

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. …