Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Future Is Now

ABC News Expands Foreign Bureaus (Washington Post)

Due to an explosion in hand-held digital technology, ABC News is opening seven new news bureaus overseas, to be staffed by only a single person equipped with a DV camera and laptop. The reporter/producers will shoot and edit their own pieces, with long-distance help from ABC News offices, sending in their work via broadband or satellite connections from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

While this type of reporting has become a staple of blogs and independent journalists, it's the first I've heard of one of the major American news-broadcasters joining the fray. And it's good news, too. It used to be a given that a network's news division wasn't going to make much money -- the Big Three (ABC, NBC and CBS) reported anyway because of a strange marriage of journalistic integrity and network branding. The thought was that if people tuned into your nightly news program, they might stick around for Prime Time, too. In recent years, though, this model has been scrapped for a new one emphasizing cost cutting and increased national coverage (at the expense of foreign news bureaus). These seven new bureaus, while tiny in comparison to the old models, are exactly the shot in the arm that Network News needs. Foreign correspondence shouldn't be sacrificed to the bottom line; it needs be streamlined and brought into the 21st Century. Digital technology allows just that.

And it's better than the alternative: Reporting only in the "hot spots" where there is a sizable American interest (i.e., Europe, Israel, Iraq, etc.) while virtually ignoring the rest of the world -- if, for nothing else, to know something about other nations before we invade them.

Just kidding. Sort of.

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