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American Journalism Review
Newspapers’ Overseas Press Corps  | American Journalism Review
From AJR,   October/November 2003

Newspapers’ Overseas Press Corps   

By Stephen Seplow
Stephen Seplow, a longtime editor and reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer and a former news editor in Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau, is a Philadelphia writer.      

American newspapers, aside from the Wall Street Journal, have the same number of full-time foreign correspondents now as a year ago. But that fails to tell the full story of their commitment to coverage of international news, because it doesn't include the numerous reporters who have been assigned temporarily to cover the war in Iraq and its bloody aftermath.

A check of the nation's 50 largest papers shows that a dozen have had reporters in Iraq for varying lengths of time since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government. Some, like the Baltimore Sun, Boston Globe and Christian Science Monitor, have never been without at least one reporter there. Others, like the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, Knight Ridder and Cox Newspapers, have had two or more. Other papers sent reporters to Iraq immediately after Hussein's fall but have not kept them there.

Most reporters have gone in for stints ranging from three weeks to about two months, although some have stayed longer. Most often, these reporters have come from other foreign posts, but some metro and national staff reporters have participated.

Overall, this year's survey for the Project on the State of the American Newspaper found (the Wall Street Journal aside) 186 full-time foreign correspondents, and another 12 budgeted spots that are vacant. The total is the same as last year. The most recent tally was conducted in late July.

The Wall Street Journal employs 109 correspondents, down from 128 a year ago, and that includes reporters for its Asian and European editions as well as its domestic edition. Many of those reporters cover only business and industry.

The survey counted reporters who work full time for a newspaper or newspaper chain. Stringers aren't included. Reporters who are not based abroad but spend virtually all of their time covering foreign stories are counted, as are those who cover border issues.

Some changes since last year's survey:

The Chicago Tribune had 10 budgeted bureaus a year ago, but two were vacant. None is vacant now. The Christian Science Monitor closed its Tokyo bureau but opened one in Istanbul. Cox Newspapers added two people in the Middle East. The Dallas Morning News shut down Bangkok but added a fifth reporter in Mexico City.

The Los Angeles Times shuttered Warsaw, although it now has reporters in both Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. Last year one reporter covered both. The Miami Herald's Managua bureau, vacant last year, has been closed permanently. The New York Times closed Warsaw but opened Prague. Newsday added bureaus in Cairo and at the United Nations; its Jerusalem bureau is vacant. The Philadelphia Inquirer added Rome, but its budgeted Johannesburg bureau has been vacant for more than a year.

The San Francisco Chronicle closed Paris. USA Today closed Mexico City. The Wall Street Journal closed bureaus in Amsterdam, Milan, Sydney and Warsaw. It also reduced the number of reporters in some bureaus. At the same time, it opened a bureau in Tehran. The Washington Post closed bureaus in Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Cairo; and Hong Kong. In addition to Baghdad, it opened bureaus in Kabul and Shanghai.

Research was compiled by John Brumfield.



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