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Reporters and Correspondants

Posted by: | October 21, 2012 | No Comment |

In Mitchelle Stephens’ book “A History of News,” use of the term correspondents referred to those individuals that kept up a letter correspondence with editors of newspapers abroad. These so-called correspondents could be called upon to “forward reports of newsworthy occurrences in their bailiwick directly to the newspaper -a considerable more efficient system than waiting for the haphazard arrival of private letters.”

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this use of correspondents was first used in 1711 to refer to “one who contributes letters to a newspaper; specifically one employed by a journal to contribute news and other material to its columns from some particular place. ”

Correspondents aren’t much different from the late 1600’s than they are today. Correspondents are individuals that are on the ground in different parts of the world reporting back to their news outlet. While they used to contribute to journals through letters, correspondents report from all over the world through various forms of technologies. Correspondents are living in a specific area. Institutions such as the New York Times have correspondents for East Africa, Europe, London, etc. These correspondents are experts in the area that they are living or embedded in. They have built relationships with individuals on the ground and are able to report first hand accounts of what is happening in case of an emergency.

Correspondents are important. Mark Doyle of the BBC was embedded in Rwanda leading up to the eventual 1994 genocide in the country. For awhile Doyle was one of the only foreign journalists in the region having been there from the beginning. In the book “The Media and the Rwandan Genocide” , Doyle recounts how he had already built relationships with UN officials prior to the genocide. In his essay, Doyle describes how some journalists only came to the region when United States citizens were being evacuated and then they quickly left, not interested in what was otherwise occurring in the region.

Correspondents such as Doyle become experts in their area. Foreign correspondents aren’t the only ones who are experts in their fields. White House correspondents are also valuable assets to a news organization. White House Correspondents are able to tell the story of what is occurring in the highest office in the United States. While sometimes becoming a megaphone for the office, longstanding White House correspondents such as Helen Thomas are able to report more than just what they are being told.

There are also war correspondents are are embedded with troops during a conflict. Famous NBC “Night News Host” was a war correspondent during the Vietnam War which marked the first time in history that  war was broadcast to viewers in their own homes.

Tom Brokaw discusses his work with NBC on reporting the Vietnam War in 1968.

In short, correspondents are individuals that are experts in their given topic. They are called up on for expert advice in regions or areas because of their knowledge in a given topic or area.


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