Recently, The New York Times did something rather interesting when it came to its coverage of the forthcoming presidential elections. It assigned a foreign correspondent to cover them, allowing for not just an interesting way to cover these elections, but also an indication of trends in media and how they will impact storytelling overall.
The Times assigned Declan Walsh, its Cairo bureau chief, to cover the elections in the same way he would a foreign story, for a series called Abroad in America. Thus far, he has written about both conventions, as well as the role of coal country in voting and the issue of women in US politics.
His column, according to an article from the Nieman Lab at Harvard University, is being edited and run through the international desk at the Times, though Walsh does consult with its politics team.
In an interview with the Lab, Walsh said the column was part of the recognition by the Times about digital readership — that much of it was outside the United States, and as a result, there was potential for such content.
“It speaks to the balance that the paper has to achieve, especially in stories that are about the United States, in writing stories about things in the US that foreign readers are very interested in, but they do not have the same degree of familiarity with or the same cultural connectors that a reader would in the United States,” Walsh said.
This initiative is part of broader work the Times is doing to expand its international readership. It recently created NYT Global, a $50 million effort over the next 3 years to expand this work, and, according to the Lab, it sees potential when it comes to attracting paying subscribers from outside the US.
Though the move is strategic on the part of the Times, this decision speaks to a larger trend in the world of journalism, largely influenced by the internet — a trend that comes off of the idea of the global village, a theory from the Canadian communications scholar Marshall McLuhan, where new technologies would be making the world smaller, connecting more and more people, no matter their location. This was part of his core theory, the medium is the message.
Indeed, the internet and the social media age have influenced how we consume news, and where we get our news from. The global age has influenced our ideas of media brands — alongside the BBC, Reuters, The Guardian, The New Yorker, the Financial Times and NPR come other sites including BuzzFeed and Vice. More people are getting access to content, either online streaming or through podcasts, whether its Stuart McLean’s The Vinyl Cafe from CBC Radio in Canada or other podcasts from public broadcasters or other sites.
As a result, news organizations like the Times are thinking more globally as far as their reach, and while the Times is a unique case, it does show how far reaching stories can be in this digital age. While it is unclear if the Times plans similar ideas for other stories down the road, it is an indication that as the mediums that journalism are being disseminated through increase, the idea of how we tell stories will change, whether global in scope or local in nature, no matter the beat, even though the first priority is the immediate audience.
It also means that there will be more sources and web sites available for information, leaving news organizations to be creative when it comes to engagement strategies surrounding stories.
While the mediums themselves will be changing, one thing hasn’t — the mission of journalism, to inform, to engage, to stimulate, and to enlighten. Though we may need to be creative about how we do it in the near future, it is better than an alternative — a world without journalism.
Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network.
The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.