Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Is international reporting dead?

"People don't need international news to survive."

It was a comment made in passing during a discussion in our journalism issues class this afternoon. Our guest speaker, Tracy Schmidt, was explaining why international news was not a topic for any of the blogs in her new hyper-local blog website, which is sponsored by the Chicago Tribune. She was taking a pragmatic business approach, making the point that, from a business standpoint, it didn't make sense to include content that people wouldn't end up reading.

But our class, which includes students from Costa Rica, Iraq, China and Jamaica, had a very negative response to the statement. Roy, the student from Costa Rica, got up and attempted to walk out of the class after making a passionate speech about our journalistic responsibility to create an informed society. I think the main issue here is that many of us realize that blogs are replacing traditional news for many in our nation's younger generation. But blogs allow their readers to be selfish and withdrawn, in the way that readers can search out specific blogs about only the issues that they care about and never pay any credence to other subjects.

The concept of hyper local media is to build community, yet most blog conglomerates fail to integrate essential information like local, national, and international news. Ironically, I think that the continued migration of our society to the internet is serving to diminish community. I'm interested in Asian politics, baseball, music and movies. Maybe my neighbor is interested in Nascar, hunting and football. Fortunately, we don't ever have to speak. I can get all of my information and social interaction from my computer, and so can he. There is no need for a face-to-face exchanging of ideas with anyone who doesn't see things the way I see them. Wait, is this a good thing?

We know from my previous posts that I am a supporter of blogs. I believe in them. But ff blogs are indeed replacing journalism, editors of these new projects need to make it a goal of theirs to provide quality, informative content. Despite critic's complaints about the top-down method of information dissemination in traditional media, there ARE still things that are important to everyone, and there ARE still people who have the tools to provide that information. Tracy Schmidt's project hasn't even launched, but she indicated that the local blogs would hopefully get people interested in real news through their references to it. I think that the "hopefully" needs to be taken out of the equation. Localized blogs need to actively seek to engage their citizens in important topics that are relevant to us all. International news is certainly one of those topics. Blogs actually present a unique opportunity to reestablish common ground among our fragmented society. But only if editors realize that there are ways for sports blogs, music blogs and entertainment blogs to each get people interested in things like global news. Maybe we need to trick people into learning formal news through these informal sources...


  1. To this day, I still can't answer the question "is international news needed for survival?"

  2. I hope that international news isn't dead. Just knowing what's going on in your own city, state, and country really narrows someone's world perspective. It's important to know what's going on globally, even if you can't feel the effects directly.

  3. It's rude to assume that newspaper readers only want local and national news. Who's to say Joe Schmoe is not interested in keeping up with what's going on in the world? What about the globalization? Doesn't this shift require us to understand more about the world? I don't think it's a waste of money to cover international news. If anything, it puts your life in perspective.

  4. I just skimmed this and I saw the part about your neighbor liking football, hunting and Nascar, and you fortunately never having to talk to him... I got a kick out of that. But yeah, I totally agree with this post.

  5. That sure was a crazy day in Issues. It made me think a lot about the question you pose. I think that the level people care about international news varies from person to person.

    For someone who has a friend or loved one in Iraq, Afghanistan or any part of the world, international news is essential in trying to find out what could possibly be going on in regards to that person.

    We all have international connections, just look at the Somali pirate situation. We may not have had a personal relation to the crew, but when we found out that they were Americans and were being rescued by Americans we took notice.

    When you were studying abroad I am sure that your family and friends paid more attention to international news about China to make sure you were okay or to learn more about where you were.

    It is unfair to say that people don't care, and if that message keeps getting repeated, it might come true - and I hope it never does.

  6. How could you not need international news in such a globalized world? It is absolutely insane, in my opinion, to assume that international news is not necessary.

  7. I've heard the sad truth that many many foreign news bureaus are closing and that international reportage is shrinking. However, I recently heard that at least one network, NBC, is trying to expand in this area and devote more resources to international reporting. I think its a very shrewd move on their part. In our increasingly globally aware world, I think international reporting can only grow.