The Ebbing of Foreign News
Colorito, Rita, The World and I
In an era of profit-driven, cost-cutting news organizations, Edward Seaton is one of the few executives who doesn't consider foreign news expendable. As publisher and editor of the daily regional newspaper the Manhattan (Kansas) Mercury, Seaton intends to keep foreign news on his agenda and to make it a priority among the nation's 1,500 other regional and community newspapers, which have significantly reduced their foreign coverage.
In 1998, a national survey by the University of California at San Diego found that only 2 percent of newspaper coverage focused on international affairs, down from 10 percent 15 years earlier.
As president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), Seaton spearheaded the development of a 1998 handbook, Bringing the World Home, and workshops to assist editors with foreign news coverage. A year later, Seaton says he believes foreign news coverage has hit rock bottom and is making a comeback.
But not everyone shares Seaton's optimism.
"It's not getting better yet," says David Anable, president of the International Center for Journalists in Washington, D.C. "I'm hoping at some point those who make the financial decisions see that the long term matters."
In the business of news, foreign news is considered bad for business. "The emphasis is on giving back to shareholders. Many times, the first thing to go is overseas coverage," says Loren Jenkins, international editor for National Public Radio. Now that less than a dozen large corporations own most news organizations--from television networks to newsmagazines to radio broadcasts--foreign news has been pushed out by audience-grabbing, moneymaking tidbits.
Giving the public what it wants
To defend their reduction in foreign news, many news executives cite surveys that say Americans could care less about what goes on internationally. "Their research told them think local, local, local," says Seaton.
Newspapers were the first media segment to react to these surveys. The concept for USA Today was based on a 1978 focus group survey by Ruth Clark, where participants said they wanted soft news, "more attention paid to their personal needs ... news about their neighborhood ... and advice on what to …
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Publication information: Article title: The Ebbing of Foreign News. Contributors: Colorito, Rita - Author. Magazine title: The World and I. Volume: 15. Issue: 5 Publication date: May 2000. Page number: 76. © 1999 News World Communications, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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