I wanted to bring over some spillover from a discussion over at Radio Open Source about the “Death of the Foreign Correspondent”. For anyone not familiar with the term, the Foreign Correspondent would be that person who appears either in print, audio or video reporting from some far away place telling us – the audience at home – what is happening there and why.
I haven’t listened to the show yet, by the initial post is about how more and more media outlets are closing down their foreign bureaus. This is, above all, to save on costs, but according to some.. it is also because there is a lack of interest for news from certain parts of the world. So they’re getting rid of the position or they’re merging with the foreign desk of another media company.
The post and the podcast ask the question, what are we losing as media consumers who want to know what is happening in the world around us… including in far away countries. Some of the comments bring up the point that we are losing alot, in terms of expertese and information, that the correspondents had long provided in ways few others could.
In certain cases I think this is a valid point, as historically there are great individuals who have played that role in media from far off places.
However I would say this is a great occasion for the rise of blogs, podcasts, and vlogs. This is the moment where we can and we will – fill in. Because, first — there will be a void, a void of information and understanding, and where else will people turn than the internet for information about places that their old media outlet isn’t giving them. second – because we are here and we want the world to understand what is happening where we are. By we I mean anyone anywhere. You sitting in Brazil are certainly a potential foreign correspondant to someone in the Netherlands. You there in New York City are a fine candidate for correspondent to someone in New Delhi.
Sure they will argue that you aren’t trained properly or that you aren’t reporting on the right issues.. but in the end.. that is up to the user to decide… the consumer.. the viewer/listener/reader. And furthermore, as someone who did extensive university level training in journalism, I- for one- saw that -in fact- this is no elite group of geniuses, plenty of people are capable of acquiring the necessary equipment, knowledge, and will..to start broadcasting their experience or the experience of something taking place right now, somewhere in the world.
These are the new foreign correspondents… and the best part.. is that they have the capacity to be better informed and more genuine than any sweet talking, khaki vest wearing, veteran news correspondent from super-giant-network news.
While it is always comforting to get back to Amsterdam and what I like to call, normal life, I arrived to some bad news yesterday.
Bad news for journalism. Bad news for the United States. And therefore.. at some level.. bad news for the entire world of journalism.
First, the news that Josh Wolf, a videoblogging comrade and journalist, his requests for appeal have been rejected.. and it seems he will be in jail for even longer.
And then…. Molly Ivins,
One of the great writers and freedom fighters of our time passed away last night. When I was at university in new jersey, studying journalism, I remember discovering both her column and her books.. and being inspired.
Naturally many people have inspired me in this life, but to hear of Molly Ivins death was certainly sad news. I will miss reading her new words and thoughts, but thankfully she led an exciting and important life, and her words are always there for when I want to go back, read, remember, and be inspired.
A string of delays, ignored requests, and busy guests have impeded my programs lately. Which seriously reminds me of the trials and tribulations of pushing to be an independent alternative reporter or news analyst or commentator, or whatever it is you feel like calling this thing I call podjournalism.
I took a decent amount of well deserved heat after my presentation in Berlin. Mostly from people who defended traditional media and the profession of journalism. They didn’t like or agree with how I callously dismissed the entire media industry. A swiss journalist scolded me the second I opened it up to comments, and I didn’t even have a chance to respond. Later, a more open minded german guy came over and politely debated the issue with me outside the big auditorium of the convention hall. That was a good discussion.. and he made some good points as well as arguements against my theories. (somebody recorded it, but it doesn’t seem to be finable on the web yet)
So what I really left out of my crazy presentation was the value of some journalism of the conventional kind. Especially from the alternative realm, where my heros like Newfield, Mailer, Stone, etc came from, and where so many of my present-day favorites still work.
I mention all this because moments like this, where it seems impossible to finish a program Im working on, or get someone to talk to me over the phone, or just get an email response saying “yes” or “no”, I remember how hard it has always been for journalists. And then I think about how even harder it is for a guy who publishes his work on his own site under the title “Bicyclemark’s Communique”.
In the end they’ll have to get used to me… because I’ll keep poking around, I’ll keep emailing, and if they don’t like the look of the website or my candid personal tone… tough shit, you’re looking at the future baby.