Academic journal article Journalism History

Through Their Eyes: Foreign Correspondents in the United States

Academic journal article Journalism History

Through Their Eyes: Foreign Correspondents in the United States

Article excerpt

Hess, Steven. Through Their Eyes: Foreign Correspondents in the United States. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2005. 195 pp. $44.95.

Stephen Hess' most recent book seeks answers to three questions regarding foreign correspondents in the United States: Who are they? How do they work? What do they report?

A 2003 study with a similar tide in Journalism (Lars Willnat's and David Weaver's "Through Their Eyes: The Work of Foreign Correspondents in the United States") suggested that the coverage of the United States by foreign correspondents has a significant impact on how international audiences perceive the country. Recent surveys, such as the 2006 Pew Global Attitudes project, have shown that America's global image has slipped and the support for the anti-terrorism war has declined even among close U.S. allies. According to Hess, a study of foreign correspondents helps show why publics in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere see the United States as they do. The analysis is based on the findings of a 1999 survey of foreign correspondents: 439 journalists responded, out of the nearly 2,000 identified by the researchers, and the survey was supplemented by 146 interviews.

One of book's most interesting parts is the historical perspective on foreign correspondents in the United States. Since the mid-twentieth century, the foreign press corps has been growing rapidly, from about 250 in 1975 to 865 twenty years later and nearly 2,000 in 1999. Over the years, the increased number of foreign reporters has reflected the same pattern of geographic representation: more than half of the correspondents were from Western Europe in 1975, followed by Asians, while west Europeans made up 47 percent in 1999 with 27 percent Asians next. Much of the growth has come from television journalists, whose number has increased more than twenty times since 1961.

Another spectacular change has been in the category of U.S. journalists working as correspondents for foreign media in their own country: the most numerous group of full-time foreign correspondents who responded to the survey consisted of U.S. citizens (15 percent). The proportion of Americans who were "irregular" (part-time foreign correspondents) was more than twice as high. The "irregulars" included, in addition to traditional journalists, professors, teachers, graduate students, artists, dealers, and astrologists.

According to the study, the typical foreign correspondent in the United States by the end of the millennium was a forty-two-year-old man who had been in the country for about four years and had written nine stories per week. …

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