Columnist: One Foreign Correspondent Does Not Equal a Bureau

Columbia Journalism Review columnist Justin D. Martin thinks it’s time for newspapers like the LA Times and Washington Post to stop referring to single, foreign-posted employees as a bureau. Combing through a 2011 American Journalism Review report, he found for example that eight of the LAT’s ten foreign “bureaus” consist of just a single employee:

I’m aware that the difference between being called a “bureau chief” rather than “correspondent” at some news organizations is similar to the difference between assistant and associate professors at universities: the coronation often nets greater job security and a bump in salary (and in some cases demands greater responsibilities). Still, journalists are supposed to use clear language. Period. A bureau in one’s bedroom is a chest of multiple drawers, and a furniture peddler who refers to a banker’s box as a bureau is being dishonest.

Another funny way Martin makes his case is to note that he is not the Columbia Journalism Review’s bureau chief in Orono, Maine. Rather, he is simply a columnist for CJR who happens to live in New England.

Martin hangs his piece on arguably the most egregious example of this semantics stretch. As part of the Washington Post’s dozen single-employee international bureaus, Sudarsan Raghavan is tasked from Nairobi with watching over the entire continent of Africa.

[Photo of Nairobi, Kenya: Natalia Lysenko/]