Making American Foreign Affairs Reporting Great Again
How can the U.S. media more effectively challenge the official D.C. narrative on national security, and why is this so important?
During the heyday of print reporting, most major U.S. newspapers had a sizable number of foreign bureaus. The advent of Internet news and the subsequent downsizing of newspapers and traditional media organizations have drastically altered how national security and foreign affairs are covered in the United States. Many reporters covering foreign affairs do so from the U.S., meaning that they have less access to sources on the ground, and thus are less able to successfully challenge the official D.C. narrative.
“In that environment, access and credibility depend on acceptance of official paradigms,” writes Stephen Kinzer in a column for The Boston Globe. “Reporters who cover Syria check with the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House, and think tank ‘experts’.” According to Kinzer, this type of U.S.-based, insider-sourced reporting has resulted in gross misrepresentations in the coverage of the Syrian Civil War and other important foreign affairs issues.
The stakes for accurate foreign affairs reporting on the part of American journalists are extremely high. While many people around the world are ignorant of world affairs, Kinzer points out, American ignorance is particularly dangerous. “The United States has the power to decree the death of nations,” writes Kinzer. “It can do so with popular support because many Americans—and many journalists—are content with the official story.”
Publications like The WorldPost and GlobalPost, as well as the nonprofit ProPublica, are helping redefine what foreign coverage looks like. How can we continue to support reporters who are challenging the official D.C. narrative from foreign soil? How can we ensure a robust media that has the tools needed to move past insider-based journalism, despite budgetary constraints?