Foreign Correspondence in the Digital Age: An Analysis of India Ink-The New York Times' India-Specific Blog

By Paul, Newly | Global Media Journal, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

Foreign Correspondence in the Digital Age: An Analysis of India Ink-The New York Times' India-Specific Blog


Paul, Newly, Global Media Journal


Abstract

This paper is a case study of India Ink, the New York Times' first country-specific blog, launched in September 2011. This paper examines the blog's content in order to analyze the ways in which participatory Web 2.0 tools have changed foreign coverage. Findings indicate that through interactive multimedia, crowd-sourced content, and collaboration between Indian and American reporters, India Ink is helping foreign correspondence thrive amidst drastic newsroom budget cuts.

Introduction

In May 2011, when 33-year-old Sohaib Athar from Abbottabad, Pakistan, began sending out live Twitter messages about a helicopter hovering above the city at 1 a.m., a mysterious blast and shaking windows, he did not realize that he was documenting the U.S. military attack that took down al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden. In 36 tweets, Athar described what he heard and saw around him, reports from his local network of friends and rumors from the web.

"Osama Bin Laden killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan.: ISI has confirmed it « Uh oh, there goes the neighborhood :-/," he tweeted, just hours after Operation Neptune Spear ended, 1.5 miles away from his home (McCullagh 2011), thereby becoming one of the most-interviewed citizen journalists in recent times. In the years before Twitter and social networking sites (SNSs), readers would have to wait for traditional foreign correspondents to get news from around the world. But with Twitter and SNSs, the world is flatter and news travels faster. As Hamilton (2009) points out, "Until recently, journalists had a? virtual monopoly on news gathering and dissemination.. .The foreign correspondent was indispensable. The weblogs or bloggers are evidence that the monopoly no longer exists."

The widespread use of the Internet means anyone with a camera and Internet-enabled phone can be a journalist. This changing media landscape is causing a swift evolution in the role of the foreign correspondent. While dismal economic conditions in American newsrooms do not allow for editors to maintain traditional foreign bureaus, they do not mean that foreign correspondence is dying. It's simply changing in tune with the changing times and technologies (Hamilton & Jenner, 2004). An example of these changing times is India Ink, the New York Times' first country-specific blog, launched in September 2011. In this paper, I aim to conduct a case study analysis of this blog. By examining the blog's content and the reporters' use of digital media tools (video, slideshows, embedded links, etc.), I attempt to answer questions about the nature of the New York Times' coverage of India-related topics in the digital age. Have participatory Web 2.0 tools improved coverage in any way? What kinds of stories appear in the blog? How do American and Indian journalists influence the content? These are some of the questions my paper seeks to answer.

Previous scholarship on foreign correspondence approaches the topic from a number of perspectives. The historical perspective (Marr, 2004; Hamilton, 2010) traces the growth of foreign correspondence through the ages-from the age of telegraphs and telephones to satellite phones and the Internet. Technological determinism guides this theory, the argument being that evolving technology has guided the evolution of foreign correspondence. The feminist perspective (Geertsema, 2009) on the study of global news argues that in an era of increasing globalization, women are underrepresented and stereotyped in national, international and global news media. Giving the example of the representation of Arab women in Western media, Geertsema (2009) notes, "The problem is exacerbated when geographic boundaries are crossed and the media in one country report on issues and events, particularly those that impact women, in another country." The critical cultural perspective (Berger, 2009) is similar to the feminist perspective in some ways. It reflects on imbalanced flows between developed and "developing nations. …

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