Foreign Affairs Coverage Shouldn't Be Foreign to Our Readers

By Fiske, Phineas | The Masthead, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Foreign Affairs Coverage Shouldn't Be Foreign to Our Readers


Fiske, Phineas, The Masthead


ABOUT THOSE EDITORIALS on foreign affairs: If your paper is not in a major metro area or a port city, you may wonder if anybody really cares what's going on in, say, Slovenia, or Mozambique, or even Great Britain. But, according to the three panelists at the Denver convention whose topic was "Compelling writing on foreign affairs":

1. People are interested in foreign news, particularly when it's combined with opinion about the meaning and importance of events.

2. You can interest readers by showing how foreign events are related to things that more directly affect their own lives.

3. The State Department is eager to be a source of information to help you come to grips with what's going on abroad.

Panel moderator Anna Karavangelos of the Washington Post Writers Group pointed out that, in an era of increasing global interdependence, American citizens have increasing reason to be concerned about foreign news. And when they are asked, Americans agree: Polls show about 55% say there is too little foreign coverage.

But to be engaging, foreign news must be made interesting to a general audience. How?

Holger Jensen, international editor and columnist for the Denver Rocky Mountain News, says he manages to do that by staying topical and emphasizing analysis and opinion. His column, which is carried by 200 papers despite those papers' generally local emphasis, often has higher readership than the straight foreign news, perhaps because it puts it in context that readers otherwise lack.

He also suggested running foreign columns on news pages, rather than on opinion pages, where the interested audience will easily find them. (An interesting idea, but we editorialists know better than to suggest such a foolish thing, eh?)

Jim Hoagland, associate editor and senior foreign correspondent for The Washington Post and a Post Writers Group columnist, said it's important to show how foreign and domestic affairs affect each other. …

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