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Foreign Correspondents: Who Covers What

The number of foreign correspondents employed by U.S. newspapers has decreased markedly since the last AJR census, taken in 2003.

By Priya Kumar
Priya Kumar ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) is a Washington, D.C.-based writer.
Originally published on AJR.org for the December 2010/January 2011 Issue
Published on Bunchofmadmen.com on January 7, 2011

The number of foreign correspondents employed by U.S. newspapers has decreased markedly since the last AJR census, taken in 2003. A count largely conducted in July shows that 10 newspapers and one chain employ 234 correspondents (including one vacancy) to serve as eyes and ears to global events. In 2003, AJR found 307 full-time correspondents and pending assignments. The current list includes a combination of staffers and contract writers, who were not included in 2003. They were counted this time to reflect changes in the industry. If only full-time correspondents were listed, the current total would be far lower. Stringers are not included in the tally.

The list and interactive map below include domestically based reporters who spend a portion of their time covering foreign news, but they are not included in the total. The same is true for reporters who are based in the U.S. and cover border issues.

Twenty papers and companies have cut their foreign bureaus entirely since AJR conducted its first census of foreign correspondents in 1998. Only six papers and chains dedicate reporters in Washington, D.C., to cover the foreign affairs beat, down from 13 in 2003.

The current list includes the Associated Press and Bloomberg News, which were not included in previous AJR surveys.

As for television networks, where airtime for foreign news has declined dramatically over the years, the numbers do not precisely reflect the reality of staffing levels. Some networks this year were more open in their responses than others, so a direct comparison to previous surveys is impossible. NBC distinguished between full-fledged bureaus and editorial presence, listing 14 bureaus and an editorial presence in four other countries. "Editorial presence" means that the organization has at least one representative, who may be a staffer, on contract or a freelancer. In the 2003 count, the networks listed 42 bureaus with full-time correspondents. This year, ABC and CNN declined to distinguish between bureaus and editorial presence, simply listing the cities where they have some representation. CBS declined to provide any information.

One bright spot is the growing international presence of NPR, which has 17 foreign bureaus. NPR had six foreign bureaus a decade ago.

Visit the site to view a map and for the list of the overseas press corps.