Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick

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The first newspaper in the United States was Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick. Its lone issue was published in 1690 in Boston.

Today, newspapers, faced with shrinking resources, are being forced to choose between either foreign occurrences or “domestick” ones. For years, this trend was leaning towards less and less foreign coverage, and even less coverage of national affairs, to focus on local news. But this week, The Washington Post seemingly made the opposite move. They closed bureaus in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, while leaving their extensive network of foreign news bureaus untouched. From Howard Kurtz’s story on the move:

“The fact is we can effectively cover the rest of the country from Washington,” Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said. … “We have for years been able to cover issues around the country for our readers with a corps of traveling reporters. It’s more possible than it’s ever been to cover the issues that matter to our readers from a Washington perspective.”

Is closing these domestic bureaus a significant blow to the Post? Former reporter Allen Lengel thinks so:

As far as substance, the Post bureaus have generated some great journalism over the years. Can the paper do as well parachuting in reporters for the big stories in big towns like Chicago and New York? Can they serve readers as well by using free-lance writers? The answer is most likely no. As the cuts come, the paper has to be careful its credo does not become “Good Enough.”

I disagree. The Post has enough money to parachute reporters anywhere in the United States. And the fact is the United States goes far beyond New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. When the shootings happened at Ford Hood, did the Chicago reporter really have sources other reporters wouldn’t have? I’m guessing not. The Post used to have an Austin bureau. Reporters there might have had better sources, but even that might be stretching it. While I think this is a loss, it’s not a huge one.

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