Friday, July 07, 2006

Sun Sets On Foreign Coverage In Baltimore, While Newsday Has A Bad Day

Shuttering Foreign Bureaus: Cost-Cutting Because We Don't Care About The Rest of the World?
If you need to know what's going in Patchogue and Hicksville, then Newsday has been the place to turn. But Newsday was never really a suburban newspaper. It was a newspaper that just happened to be in the suburbs, in this case Long Island.
Its ambitions were always much grander, and that's why it put together a formidable Washington bureau, an office in Albany usually crammed with more reporters than the Times, and a more-than-respectable foreign report often filled with courageous enterprise reporting.
But that was a long time ago, or so it seems.
The Washington bureau has been dessicated since Newsday was acquired by Tribune as part of the Times-Mirror deal. Albany is but a shell. And now the remaining foreign bureaus, in Beirut and Islamabad (the last of six), are on the way out, a prospect that Newsday left to the wires. "The Tribune-wide staffing changes will not reduce our commitment to providing an enterprising foreign report," said Newsday editor John Mancini.
And if you believe that, Newsday has a bridge in Brooklyn that you might be interested in purchasing. Oh, I forgot. The paper got rid of most of its reporters in the city.
Now Newsday will have to rely the wires and a team of Tribune correspondents, mostly from the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, who will now be writing for the whole chain.
This is the same newspaper where current foreign editor Roy Gutman won a Pulitzer in 1993 for his unrelenting series of reports about human-rights atrocities in Croatia and Bosnia that were chilling in their detail, and remarkable given how they were written in a war zone where Gutman was constantly in peril.
More recently, former foreign editor Dele Olojede won a Pulitzer last year for his unstinting look at Rwanda 10 years after the genocide there. Tellingly, Olojede left Newsday in 2005, taking a buyout rather than reduce his commitment to foreign news, as the parent company embarked on yet another cost-cutting spree.
That's all gone now. Newsday continues its evolution as a shell of its former self. "I don't know what's going to replace them. The paper thrived on that," Gutman told the Baltimore Sun, another Tribune paper which is losing its last remaining foreign bureaus too (Moscow, Johannesburg), while its Jerusalem reporter will be absorbed into the Tribune foreign network.
Sun Editor Tim Franklin says the amount of space devoted to foreign news won't change. It just won't come from Sun reporters. The paper had eight bureaus just a decade ago.Franklin did everything but launch into "Tomorrow" from "Annie" as he spun these latest developments, proclaiming: "We'll continue to have a storied tradition of foreign reporting - just in a different form."

But Sun foreign editor Robert Ruby knows better. As he told the AP, the bureau closings were a "very sad development for the newspaper."And for anyone who cares about the news business.

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