Friday, September 16, 2011

International Coverage with Local and Global Appeal

By Christine Larsen

Jammed phone lines. No communication. No new information. Missing
correspondence is only part of the challenge international journalists face when
reporting natural disasters.

Haiti correspondent for the Miami Herald, Jacqueline Charles, discussed today
the localization of a globalizing world during a break out session of the last day
at the APME conference: "Bringing International Stories Home."

Miami provides an example of how international stories are able to resonate
deeply to a local audience, according to Charles. The city is home to a Haitian-
American population that demographically represents the top non-speaking
minority for the area, posing certain issues in terms of accurate and sensitive

Many Haitian-Americans take pride in their country and think they know
everything there is to know about it, Charles said. One issue to grapple is
overcoming this boundary and providing them with more information focused
on a global reach.

"When Haiti sneezes, Miami catches a cold," she said.

Charles also added to her discussion that sources are key. In a country that
works off of rumors, it is vital to discern where that information is coming from.

"Haiti is emerging from a dictatorship," she said. "In a country like Haiti, strength
is in sourcing."

Eric Talmadge, AP Tokyo News Editor, discussed the privilege and unique
opportunity in writing for a globalized audience. One of the goals of AP Tokyo
that he illustrated was in finding issues and stories that highlight the human

Talmadge, who has spent his entire career reporting in Asia, said it can be
challenging to capture elements of humanity in international reporting.

"It's happening to people," he said. "How do we illustrate that? We need to put a
human face to what is going on in the world." However, finding humanity and
personalizing devastation and destruction often brings emotion to the reporter.

"Being a reporter on the ground is very frustrating. When you see suffering, you
don't want it to continue," he said. "There are many issues to delve more deeply
into and the perspective of the AP is to focus on breaking news, but we also
need a local focus to say as much as it needs to."

An advantage he had in covering the 6.6-magnitude undersea quake in Tokyo
included having pre-existing resources. These included a collection of bilingual
reporters already knowledgable about the area and accustomed to covering
breaking news.

"We are there for the long haul," he said. "Other media outlets did not have so
much of a luxury." He later added, "I could go right to the story knowing what
the local media was saying."

The global audience was captive and engaged for about a month, in which time
the agency was able to produce a lot of further developments.

However, a stifling handicap in reporting international coverage is that incredible
resources are required, which cost a lot.

"We don't have those types of resources at our disposal," Talmadge said.

This is where John Schidlovsky, founding director of the International Reporting
Project, comes in. The project is the first non-profit news foundation support
agency in the country, according to the panel.

The International Reporting Project send around 400 U.S. journalists to 101
different countries to report on in-depth investigative and enterprising stories in
their local papers in a two-prong approach.

"With individual fellowships, there are 10 reporters sent to 10 different
countries," Schidlovsky said. "They will then come back and do their stories. The
focus is on stories not covered by the US media."

The next mission through the project will send reporters to Saudi Arabia in the
spring with the goal of editors gaining deeper perspective of what is going on in
the world with a direct staff and the opportunity to build contacts. The trip will
be at no cost to them or their home news agencies.

"We pay for everything," Schidlovsky said. "We want to bring international news
home and work closer with editors to fashion a project that is of interest to
people in the local community. No matter how small an area is, there is always a
strong international community."

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