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Ethical Considerations in Foreign Correspondence

Journalism and IR
Rob Nordland

An Interview with Lily Halpern 

Brown Journal of World Affairs: Your career as a foreign correspondent has spanned three decades, in which you’ve reported from over 150 cities. Could you speak briefly to the changes in the field you’ve seen in recent years, in terms of the resources being devoted to foreign correspondence and the changing security landscape, and what challenges or opportunities these changes present? 

Rod Nordland: When the Internet revolution came along and sapped the fi- nances of mainstream news organizations, for a lot of them, the one easy place to skimp was on foreign correspondence because they were able to get their basic needs served by wire services like AP and Reuters; they could even get material from the New York Times news service, which a lot of papers take as well. And those other voices were really strong—Knight Ridder newspapers had built quite a big foreign staff of their own, in addition to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which ended up being part of that. And I think that, too, shriveled up to maybe one correspondent when it was bought by McClatchy. I think maybe they had one correspondent when they went into Baghdad, but not many more. And so this is a much sadder era to be a foreign correspondent for mainstream media. We’ve seen it very dramatically in Kabul. The New York Times has a three-person bureau with 25 support staff. The next biggest bureau now in Kabul is one correspondent with maybe half- a-dozen support staff or Afghan staff. AP, Reuters, and the Wall Street Journal all have one correspondent there, and I think for most of them now, when that correspondent is gone, like on vacation or a break, that means there’s no correspondent there. And the Washington Post has gone down to basically one- half of one correspondent—the guy who works in Islamabad works in Kabul as well, and so he basically shares his time between those two places. So that’s what we’re down to.