Veteran foreign correspondent fears for future of international news coverage

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  • October 27, 2010

By Ian Tennant

Veteran foreign correspondent Mort Rosenblum doesn't like where international news coverage by U.S. media outlets seems to be headed.

“I’m really worried,” he told a small crowd at the University of Texas at Austin on Tuesday, Oct. 26. “I’m seriously worried.”

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas sponsored the talk by Rosenblum, who was in town to present his latest book, Little Bunch of Madmen: Elements of Global Reporting.

Rosenblum, who started his career in 1963 in Caracas, Venezuela, lamented budget cutbacks that have decimated foreign news operations of major daily newspapers. For example, he noted that the Washington Post now only has a half-time correspondent based in Paris.

The long-time Associated Press correspondent, who teaches an international reporting class at the University of Arizona in Tuscon (where he grew up), said journalism schools have four years to convince young reporters “that you have to be there. It’s the difference between journalism and ‘churnalism.’”

“Churnalism,” he said, is related to “washing machine” journalism when journalists sit in U.S. cities tossing around issues and ideas while the actual news takes place on foreign streets.

“If we are not there, they (the readers) are not there,” he told a group of University of Texas journalism students earlier in the day.

Rosenblum, a former editor of the International Herald Tribune who lives in Paris, said Little Bunch of Madmen: Elements of Global Reporting is meant to be a textbook for journalism students considering a career covering foreign news. While he admits to being pessimistic about the willingness of major U.S. media companies to commit resources to cover foreign news, he welcomes online ventures such as the GlobalPost, which has commissioned Rosenblum to write about the foreign policies of the Tea Party movement in the United States.

While he admits to a love-hate relationship with social media and bloggers, Rosenblum said he fears that the 24/7, ultra-rapid news cycle is more likely to misinform than inform.

“We have got the ability to get things wrong at the speed of light, and we do,” he said.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.