Shrinking Foreign Coverage
Over the past quarter-century, foreign news in dailies examined by AJR fell by 53
By Priya Kumar
To get a sense of the amount of
foreign news in U.S. newspapers, AJR selected two papers from each of the four
Census-designated regions of the country: the Northeast, Midwest, South and
West. We then randomly selected seven dates between January and June, making
sure to include each day of the week. Using microfilm and hard copies, we looked
through the entire edition of each newspaper and counted the number of foreign
stories. Foreign stories included hard news, features, editorials, columns and, generally, travel stories. We included stories
with domestic bylines if they focused on foreign events or issues.
Priya Kumar (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Washington, D.C.-based writer.
The papers we chose were the Philadelphia Inquirer, Providence Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer,
Tampa Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Fresno Bee and Portland's Oregonian.
The findings? A drastic decline in the amount of foreign news. Over the
past quarter-century, foreign news in the dailies examined by AJR fell by 53
percent, with the largest drop coming in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That paper printed
three-fourths fewer foreign stories in 2010 than in 1985. The Dallas
Morning News had the smallest drop in foreign stories among the eight, printing
The percentage of
staff-produced foreign stories in the eight papers also fell sharply, from 15
percent in 1985 to 4 percent in 2010.
When newspapers printed foreign
news in 1985, they were more likely to go longer, with stories more than 400
words outnumbering shorter pieces by nearly two to one. And although this
year's foreign stories were still more likely to be longer, the ratio narrowed.
Foreign news never played a
starring role on the front page of these dailies. In 1985, 9 percent of foreign
stories appeared on page 1, compared with only 6 percent in 2010.