ABC News’ Overseas Scheme

1003davidwestin.jpgWhat’s David Westin’s gambit?

So it looks like ABC stumbled on an interesting idea for boosting their overseas reporting presence: Single-person international bureaus. A mix of ABC News staffers and stringers have been hired in New Delhi, Mumbai, Seoul, Jakarta, Rio de Janeiro, Dubai and Nairobi. It’s ABC News’ largest foreign bureau expansion in over 20 years. According to the Hollywood Reporter:

The small offices, staffed by a reporter-producer with the latest in hand-held digital technology, cost a fraction of what it takes to run a full-time bureau. But the work they file will be featured not only on and ABC News Now but also occasionally on such ABC shows as World News Tonight and Good Morning America. […] “Technology now makes it possible for us to have bureaus without a receptionist, three edit suites and studio cameras and so on,” ABC News president David Westin told The Hollywood Reporter. “The essence of what we do is reporting, it’s not production. Production is the way you get it on the air and to people, but reporting is the essence.” Each of the seven reporters will work from home and travel around their region carrying a small DV camera and editing-enabled laptop. They’ll report, write, shoot and edit their pieces, though they also will have support from others at ABC News. Most of the work will be uploaded via broadband to New York, though they will carry a portable satellite dish for the field where broadband isn’t available.

A unique concept. But will it fly? More importantly, what happens if a major news story develops in one of these regions and circumstances prevent additional reporters traveling to the area? Given specific conditions in Mumbai, Seoul and Dubai, this isn’t as far fetched as it seems. We’re literally talking about shoestring staffs and their ability to function in times of war or civil disturbance is a legitimate (and unproven) question.

Press release after the jump.



Reporters Dispatched to New Delhi, India; Mumbai, India; Seoul, South Korea; Jakarta, Indonesia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Dubai, UAE; and Nairobi, Kenya

In the largest expansion of ABC News’ foreign bureaus in two decades, ABC News’ President David Westin announced the deployment of seven reporters to posts around the globe. ABC’s reporters will be based in New Delhi, India; Mumbai; India, Seoul, South Korea; Jakarta, Indonesia; Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; Dubai, UAE; and Nairobi, Kenya.

Using new digital technologies and an international network of newsgathering partnerships, the reporters will establish bureaus in their respective regions and contribute on- and off-air reporting to all ABC News’ broadcasts and platforms; ABC News Radio; and ABC NewsOne, the network’s affiliate news service. They will also regularly file for ABC News’ digital platforms, including, ABC News Now, and ABC News’ webcasts.

“Technology has dramatically changed how we gather the news around the world. Because our reporters can now shoot and produce their own stories, travel with more portable gear, and transmit material from anywhere, we can report more stories from more locations,” said Mr. Westin. “This talented team of journalists joins our other foreign correspondents and producers to bring the world’s most important stories to our audience.”

The reporters will work closely with ABC News’ global network of news partners, including the BBC, APTN, NHK, ARD, and other local news organizations. Additionally, they will be supported by ABC News’ larger bureaus in London, Moscow, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Beijing.

Prior to dispatching overseas, each reporter received extensive training in digital technologies and applications. In the field, they will write, film, edit, and feed their material digitally from DV cameras and laptops, wherever they are in the world.

The reporters are drawn from around the news division and include:

Joohee Cho in Seoul, South Korea

Since joining ABC News in 1999 as a producer in the Seoul bureau, Cho has contributed reporting to all ABC News’ broadcasts and platforms, including “World News with Charles Gibson,” “Nightline,” and “Good Morning America.” She also contributed reporting to the award-winning hour “North Korea: Inside the Shadows,” recognized with a Gracie Award from the Association of Women in Radio & Television. Among the stories Cho has covered: the nuclear crisis in the Korean peninsula, the Korean stem cell scandal, the opening of Gaesong Industrial Park, the historic North-South Korean Summit in 2000, and the 2002 World Cup soccer games. Additionally, Cho has traveled to many North Korean cities, including: Pyongyang, Shinpo, Mt. Kumkang, and Gaesong and has interviewed hundreds of North Korean refugees. Cho is a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington D.C., where she received both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Foreign Service. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in political communication and lecturer at Yonsei University in Seoul. Cho is a native speaker of Korean and English.

Margaret Conley in Jakarta, Indonesia

Over the past year, Margaret Conley has contributed stories to from across the Asia Pacific region, including Tibet, Hong Kong, Australia and Cambodia. Conley joined ABC News as a New York-based coordinator at “Good Morning America,” working in production and operations. She later moved to Los Angeles to serve as director in the office of the ABC Television Network President and, later, as director in the office of the ABC Entertainment President. Prior to joining ABC, Conley was at MTV where she worked behind the scenes in production on “Choose or Lose,” MTV News’ 2000 presidential campaign coverage. Conley has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science/International Relations from Columbia University, where she also received a Gold King’s Crown Award. She earned a master’s degree from the Journalism Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong, which specializes in covering Asia. A native of California, Conley has spent more than six years living in Asia.

Sonia Gallego in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sonia Gallego joined ABC News’ London Bureau in 1999 as a production associate for “World News Tonight” and “Good Morning America.” She has covered a number of major international stories, including the Madrid train bombings, the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the subsequent election of Pope Benedict XVI. Over the past year and a half, Gallego has made several trips to Iraq, covering the war as a field producer and contributing on-air reports from Baghdad. Her most recent trip included reporting on the surge of US forces. During last year’s Israeli-Lebanese conflict, Gallego worked on location throughout Israel and Gaza, reporting and producing for ABC News’ broadcasts and platforms. She also spent time in Uganda as a cameraman and producer, reporting on aid and development work in the country. Gallego attended Goldsmiths College at the University of London, where she studied English Literature and History. She also studied Italian Literature and Language at the University of Pisa in Italy. She is fluent in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French. Over the years, Gallego has spent time travelling throughout Brazil, working on short films.

Dana Hughes in Nairobi, Kenya

Before this assignment in Nairobi, Dana Hughes was an associate producer for the ABC News’ Investigative Unit, where she helped produce stories for “World News with Charles Gibson,” “Nightline,” “Good Morning America,” “20/20,” and ABC News Radio. Also working as a writer and reporter for “The Blotter,” the Investigative Unit’s webpage on, Hughes documented corruption in Nigeria, human rights abuses in Africa and the Middle East, and prescription drug errors by one of the country’s largest pharmacy chains. Hughes’ reporting has been recognized with several honors, including a Peabody Award, a Gracie Allen Award, and a National Headliner Award. Hughes joined ABC News in 2005 as a Carnegie Corporation Fellow working with the Investigative Unit, where she examined the safety of nuclear reactors on college campuses. Hughes graduated with a B.A. from Colorado State University and a M.S. with honors distinction from The Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in Berlin, Germany for young journalists in 2006.

Karen Russo in Mumbai, India

Most recently, Karen Russo was a field producer for “Nightline” where she produced a wide-range of stories, including breaking news, celebrity profiles and pieces for the “You Are What You Eat” series. She also produced reports for the ABC News foster care special, “A Call to Action: Saving Our Children” that received the Robert F. Kennedy and Cine Awards. In 2006, Russo received a Rosalyn Carter Mental Health Care Fellowship to report on mental health care programs in Ethiopia. Russo joined ABC News in 2003 as an associate producer for “Primetime.” There she helped produce an hour-long special about the Brazilian spiritual healer “Joao de Deus.” In 2005, she traveled to Banda Aceh, Indonesia to shoot and produce a report about an American woman building earthquake-resistant homes for tsunami survivors. Before joining ABC News, Russo was a print journalist and wrote for several publications including the Associated Press, “The Boston Globe,” and “The Vineyard Gazette.” Raised in Southborough, Massachusetts, Russo received a B.A. from Smith College and a M.S. from The Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

Nick Schifrin in New Delhi, India

Before this assignment in New Delhi, Nick Schifrin served as the editorial producer and writer of the “World News” webcast, a daily 15-minute newscast designed specifically for the digital audience and delivered via iTunes and Schifrin helped create and launch the webcast in January 2006. In 2003, he covered the campaign of Arnold Schwarzenegger as an off-air reporter, and in 2004 he joined the Political Unit, where he helped write “The Note” under Mark Halperin and served as an editorial producer. As a field producer in 2005, he helped cover Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma as well as tornadoes in Indiana and Iowa, Martha Stewart’s sentencing, and the protests during the Republican National Convention in New York. Schifrin began at ABC News as an overnight desk assistant in 2002. A native of Los Angeles, he graduated from Columbia University, where he was the managing editor of the “Columbia Daily Spectator.”

Lara Setrakian in Dubai, UAE

Prior to this assignment in Dubai, Lara Setrakian was a reporter with ABC News’ Law & Justice Unit. There she covered high-profile trials and cases, from the JonBenet Ramsey murder to breaking major exclusive stories on the Duke Lacrosse case. In 2006, she conducted an exclusive interview with five Chinese men released from Guantanamo Bay after a wrongful detention. Setrakian also played a key editorial role in “Ballotwatch,” the Law & Justice Unit’s 2006 midterm election coverage. She has helped produce dozens of pieces for various ABC News’ broadcasts and platforms, including “Prescription for Change,” a series about America’s health care system, and a “Nightline” investigation on the Virginia Tech shooting. Setrakian began her broadcasting career at WHRB-FM Radio in Boston, where she served as anchor and news director. In 2007 she received a fellowship from the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution. Setrakian graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in Government and a certificate in Spanish. A native of Englewood, New Jersey, she speaks French, Spanish, Arabic, and Armenian and has studied Persian and Portuguese.