Shrinking International News Output of UK Papers Creates Opportunity for PR Pros

by Michel Rubini, European Media Relations Team

A recent report titled “Shrinking World” published by the Media Standards Trust suggests that the loss of international news coverage by UK newspapers is a gain for public relations pros.

The report, written by Martin Moore and published in November 2010, details how international reporting in UK newspapers has decreased in the last 30 years by nearly 40%. The report compared international reporting output for one week in 1979 with 2009 from four national papers, The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and the Daily Mirror. The conclusion: international news coverage has diminished dramatically.

Counting all the foreign news stories in the four newspapers in the same week over a period of 30 years, the total number decreased from 502 in 1979 to 308 in 2009 (see graph below).

The reasons for the decrease are multiple. Original foreign reporting is expensive. A foreign bureau costs $200-300,000 a year, based on a 2007 analysis by Jill Carroll for the Harvard Shorenstein Center.  As a result, UK newspapers have reduced the number of journalists based abroad, replacing them with freelancers.

The end of the Cold War in 1989 factors into the decrease in foreign reporting as well. The Cold War provided a clear framework and rationale for covering international affairs which a domestic audience relied upon.  Also contributing to the decline is the rise of more specialised media, such as locally based satellite TV, or online local editions of foreign newspapers, and even social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.

In such a setting, it’s no surprise that UK-based correspondents rely on news sources from the country of origin as well as newswire content like that provided by Business Wire to fill in the gaps, turning the loss of foreign correspondents in UK newspapers into a gain for PR professionals and their clients.

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