The challenge of foreign correspondents for the next 10 years – simply to survive?
Imagine you sit in a café. You ordered the best coffee in town – a latte macchiato, which scent fills the room pervasively. As you consider yourself as a world citizen, you aspire to be informed about the world happenings. Hence, you read the news paper. You hold on to the paper. You hear it rustle while turning the pages.
Please wake up and get real. Let’s leave imagination aside. You actually hold your Starbucks coffee in your right hand and you read four different free news papers on your tablet, which you balance on your lap. All this happens while you are in the metro to go to a meeting.
By doing so, you might kill the news paper industry?
The struggle news papers recently undergo is well known. There is definitely a shift in the world of news reporting, however, it stays exciting, which will be the right direction. Obviously it is the internet that has the finger in the pie. There is a clear decline in the sale of traditional newspapers, while more and more people rely on online news sources.
Nevertheless the revenues obtained through online offers of articles are very low and the industry mainly has to rely on the income through advertisement. If it is not the New York Times or some other prestigious newspaper, which can attract readers despite demanding a fee, many news papers have to shut down or go through a rough time right now.
The one occupational category mostly affected are foreign correspondents, whose profession toils to be present within the prospective media landscape. It is not only the decline in the disposable budget of the news industry, but also the arise of new competitors in this area threatening its existence .
The smaller budgets mostly affect daily news papers, which no longer have the capacity to engage foreign correspondents. Whereas a decade ago, most news papers employed foreign correspondents in at least 10 places in the world, the trend is to shut down and only focus on New York and Beijing. To fill this gap, smaller news papers rely boosted on news agencies or other influential news papers. In Germany, the Spiegel Online and die Zeit, two very famous news businesses have a very influential voice in their area. However, due to this inability to provide separate articles, we face monopolization in the media landscape, allowing for an increasing power of agencies and flourishing news papers. Therefore the concern arises, how independent news reporting will be in the future.
Additional to this concern, we face an intervention of foundations and governments in the news industry. It is a new trend that both foundations and governments sponsor trips for foreign correspondents, in order to gain some influence in their reports and have some presence in the news. This development has to be investigated critically, as the originating reports can be heavily influenced.
Parallel to the declining budgets, the news industry has to differentiate itself from other sources of foreign reports. Such sources are: NGOs, journalism platforms (e.g. Global Post), citizen journalism, aggregators and blog writers. Despite the fact that these sources lack accurate verification, as they mostly rely on very subjectively content, many news consumers see it as good information about certain happenings.
The main challenge here is to provide an interactive news platform, which provides an active audience with quality news reports. The American journalist Craig Silverman talks about “new verification”, which defines the foreign correspondents’ emerging task to become a mediator between citizen journalists and the audience while examining and approving the sources.
According to the German foreign correspondent Martin Dahms there is no rosy future for this profession, but it will survive. In an interview he named the following solution to the crisis. “I am informed about the concerns in this debate, but I do not see this profession to become redundant. There will always be an elite striving to receive quality information about the world happenings, for which they are willing to pay. The future task is to use this willingness and interest and turn it into a profitable business. I am sure the industry will come up with an answer satisfying customers and enabling foreign correspondents to do their business.” Let’s hope he is right.
Even if there will be major changes, reduction in the amount of foreign correspondents and print news papers (only very high standard news papers will survive), as well as in the length and variety of topics, as long as media exist there will be foreign correspondents. However, their role will change from an expert on a certain culture to an expert in technological issues and a contributor in other services, such as shows, literature and a very internationally deployable journalist.
I, personally expect the media realm to find a solution to the current crisis in form of embracing the new technologies as a chance to repatriate the audience to become responsible citizens interested in the global happenings, which remarkably change today’s world.
What does this mean for you? You will be able to sit in the metro and have your Starbucks coffee while reading the news on your tablet– but you should be willing to pay for quality news and thereby show your engagement and interest to receive uninfluenced and reliable reports.
Written by Viktoria Arnold