Foreign News Focus…

The New York Times’ Brian Stelter writes about a time of big international news stories and the TV news networks that cover them.

The foreign press corps is working in exceptionally dangerous conditions in countries like Japan, where members carry radiation monitors on assignment, and in Libya, where crews of journalists have been detained. “We’ve had a year’s worth of international breaking news, and we’re only halfway through March,” said Tony Maddox, the executive vice president and managing director at CNN International, where anchors spoke on Saturday of being “live on five continents.”

The coverage exposes just how much reporting of foreign news has changed in the past decade, through cuts at news outlets and through the contributions of the Internet and other new technologies. Fewer journalists covering foreign news work full time for American broadcast networks than once did, and those who remain have had to hopscotch from one hot spot to another this year, sometimes creating lags in coverage.

Two things of note in the Stelter article, both relating to NBC. First is NBC’s declining interview requests for the story. One wonders if last week’s Twitter spat between elements of NBC News and Stelter played a role in NBC’s decision. Second is a statement from NBC on the Japan redeployment/evacuation story last Wednesday. Recall Michael Calderone’s article on the redeployment…

“NBC News and MSNBC are not evacuating people,” a spokeswoman told The Cutline, pointing out that Robert Bazell, Ann Curry and Ian Williams are still in the country, along with their crews. The network cut back staff in the country when the story moved from the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami to a nuclear crisis.

Now look at the statement Stelter quotes from…

NBC said in a statement that it had “downsized the number of folks on the ground, to limit exposure to the danger of the power plant,” and that the people who stayed had done so voluntarily.

This new statement, if it is a new statement (and I’m not clear on that) is markedly different in meaning from the information relayed by Calderone on Friday. Calderone’s article does not mention anything regarding radiation danger being a factor in NBC’s decision. This one does. Calderone’s article was pushback on the idea that there was an evacuation. Stelter’s article all but confirms it was. Here’s the Webster’s definition of evacuate. NBC may chafe at the word “evacuate” because, admittedly, there are some negative connotations that one could associate with it. But if it walks like a duck…

For the record, I think NBC made the right call. If it felt its people were in danger and it wanted to limit the exposure to that many key people, I have ZERO qualms with NBC deciding to pull teams back stateside. NBC staff safety should always be issue #1 and there’s no shame in doing an evacuation if events are as uncertain as they were earlier last week. But then don’t go ape when people notice you’ve evacuated most of your teams stateside and act like it wasn’t an evacuation when everyone, including your own people, knew it was.

Update: I have since learned that the statement Stelter quoted from had been disseminated to several media outlets on Friday. Which makes the Media Writers’ failure I noted in Sunday’s What’s Hot/What’s Not all the more damning. You guys totally blew it! Except Brian of course…

One Response to “Foreign News Focus…”

  1. fredorth Says:

    This statement is clear and precise. Considering how often words change from different prespective, timeframe and geography, I am suprised that this doesn’t happen more often. Regardless, Spud, you are correct to take note of this confusion and lack of effort to clarify.

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