The Death of the Foreign Correspondent? Not So Much

By Chris Ariens 

A year ago today we wrote about one of those annual “predictions” stories. It was from Mashable’s Vadim Lavrusik who had a host of predictions for the news media in 2011. This was No. 6:

6. The Death of the ‘Foreign Correspondent’

Lavrusik, who is also an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s journalism school, argued that news organizations would rely “heavily on stringers and, in many cases, social content uploaded by the citizenry.”


How right he was… and wasn’t.

While much of the video from the Arab Spring and Japanese earthquake & tsunami — two of the biggest stories on the planet this year — was user generated: captured on smartphones, uploaded to video sites and shared around the world on social networks, it took the network correspondents to put into perspective what we were seeing, to interview some of those captured on video (or who captured the video), and put into greater context what it all means. That’s really their job. So that at the end of a 1-minute 45-second package or 2-minute live shot, we all have a better understanding of the story.

This year, the networks did not rely “heavily on stringers,” the news was simply too broad and complex and the competition too great. No network wants to be left out.

So they dug deep into their pockets and sent in correspondents and anchors to report what was happening. Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer, Anderson Cooper, Scott Pelley, even Barbara Walters have all traveled the globe this year for their networks. ABC’s Christiane Amanpour racked up more stamps on her passport and NBC’s Richard Engel and CBS’s Lara Logan — who

serve as chief foreign correspondents for their networks, despite living in the U.S. — have traveled back and forth to North Africa and the Middle East covering the Arab Spring on several fronts. Correspondents from CNN including Nic Robertson, Sara Sidner, Arwa Damon, and Matthew Chance and those from Fox News, like Steve Harrigan and Greg Palkot, have spent long days and nights, hour after hour, reporting live from the frontlines of the protests facing injury, assault, and the unknown.

So while the networks will continue to benefit from better technology and user generated content, the indispensable foreign correspondent will be necessary to make sense of it all. And considering 2012 begins where 2011 leaves off — with lingering challenges throughout the Arab world — the foreign correspondent will continue to be high demand.