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The following program was produced and recorded by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. News in 20th century America. A series of radio documents on the gathering writing and dissemination of news compiled from interviews with the men and women who make news their business. The problem of four of those lies here. And those papers are going to try to have their own man abroad listen try to pick out young men and women and train them in languages and cultures of foreign countries that were going to do the same thing that's going to give them space and time what they produce them for theirs is never going to be pervaded the American public very adequately any kind of stimulating the racket of the voices that have Eric Sevareid former foreign correspondent and now Washington reporter for the Columbia
Broadcasting System. Mr. Severne ride is one of several distinguished journalists you will meet in this edition of news in 20th century America today. The Foreign Correspondent his work his present status his unique problems. Now here is your host Ed Burroughs. What makes a good foreign correspondent. Should he speak the language of the country in which he is stationed. What should he know of the culture history and social structure of that country. How does he handle foreign propaganda censorship. These are some of the questions you will hear discussed today by means of excerpts from recorded interviews with Howard K. Smith H.R. blockage Marquess Chiles Robert negate all of. Robert Serling and Eric Sevareid. Approximately 600 reporters serve abroad as eyes and ears for the American public. Nearly half of them in Europe alone. They fall
into three categories. News agency correspondents for The Associated Press and United Press International. Special correspondents for individual newspapers such as The New York Times or Chicago Daily News and others representing all radio TV networks. With me today I'm serving as a consultant on this program is Leland Stowe. Mr. Stone has been for nearly 30 years a foreign correspondent for American newspapers magazines and radio networks. His appearance a prize winner for foreign correspondents and most recently a professor of journalism at the University of Michigan professor Stowe. How does the Foreign Correspondent go about the task of gathering use. First he must read up to a dozen or more newspapers of many different political opinions just to keep posted on what's going on. Then comes his absolutely indispensable legwork as we call it in journalism. Making the rounds to maintain contact with a great
variety of possible news sources. Of course he attends Foreign Office press conferences and sessions of Parliament but he must also visit key officials in government ministries in foreign embassies prominent businessmen and bankers. Sometimes economists and scientists or educators or specialists in aviation and other fields not all in one day but many every day according to what news is breaking or what vital developments demand probing for more information or for interpretation. Official lunches dinners and cocktail parties are also part of the top correspondents routine often lead to exclusive stories and beats. Finally the able and productive foreign correspondent must do his homework. A great deal of consistent side reading background reading in periodicals and books on every
sort of subject in order to report intelligently on our highly complex world seen such self-education is most essential. Howard K. Smith has spent 20 years overseas as a correspondent for United Press The New York Times Time magazine. I'm CBS he has worked in Europe the Middle East and Africa. We are supposed to Smith what he considered to be the principal problems facing the foreign correspondent. I think the problems vary according to the country. For example in Great Britain the journalist has very low status. It was only a short while ago that a correspondent had to go to get his information and to use the tradesman's entrance the back door of the ministry. And then he would be given a handout. And he's still not regarded very highly it's very hard for a correspondent to see an eminent person in a country like Britain or in France on the other hand information is rather abundant The French always leak information to all
reporters whenever there's a big three meeting or a Big Four meeting then the thing to do if you want to get to find out what happened behind closed doors is to stick to the French delegation in those meetings because they leak information regularly. It varies greatly according to. The country. But in general language yes language is a problem because you don't have that problem in Great Britain. I think. There was a time when reporters American foreign correspondents took an almost of the pride in not knowing the language where they worked. But now it's becoming more and more necessary. Robert McGhee doff spent a dozen years in Russia filing stories for news services and broadcasting for NBC. We are supposed to make good off what he thought about this problem of language for a correspondent in Russia. I think one cannot overemphasize the importance of this. It is true that the secretaries we get are on the whole. And quite competent. And because they translate newspapers and
articles and magazines. Which had passed Soviet censorship they are doing a conscientious and competent job. But there are so many ways in which one could get. It isn't only a question of stories actual stories but could get background if one knows the language and can read those same stories yourself. A. A secretary who does translation is normally a Soviet citizen normally born and bred there. And has no idea of the range of interests that Americans have. And so they frequently miss things. And when you point these things to them they just don't understand what you are talking about because they don't seem to matter to them. And also I can say that the two great big scoops which I had during my years as a correspondent were both due to the fact that I knew the language
when a chargeback age began his newspaper career before World War One and later when he was one of the first radio commentators the foreign correspondent gave little thought to the language and culture of the country in which he was stationed. As Mr. Bucket told us. There were two types of correspondents. In those early days at before World War One. I believe and one was a. Semi diplomat. Very few. If you name them less fingers of one hand they represented the paper and they were sometimes called the unofficial ambassador. Oh yes and we had some people like that Europe here in Washington. And otherwise the news was. Most of what we got filtered through the British. We picked it up from the British because our people were not multilingual. And the British usually knew the language of the country. In which they were stationed and we depended on them. And
then the news was that it wasn't done intentionally. It was simply the honest British viewpoint which is quite different you know. Robert Serling is head of the Washington bureau of United Press International. Among the many questions we asked Mr. Serling was one about the type of man his wire service places in a foreign reporting position and what sort of training he's expected to have. In some cases they are people who have lived abroad for some time have great knowledge of language accomplishments and contacts in the country. At other times we have sent men over from the United States without any particular training in so-called foreign correspondents but just darn good reporters covering covering Europe or Asia or the Far East is basically still a good reporting job. You can cover a war with the same energy and zeal that you can covering a five alarm fire in the United States. Obviously of course
language accomplishments would be a very fine thing for. A man going from the United States overseas to cover. Language is badly needed but. I've seen too many you. Not to me I've seen many UPI men go overseas on assignments and do a very terrific job without any particular training per se and foreign correspondents whether a correspondent is familiar with the language or not he is faced with the problem of obtaining and interpret the news censorship by foreign governments is an ever present source of exasperating for the American correspondent. Professor stow What about the difficulties of censorship. Well censorship is a constant headache under any kind of dictatorship. But except for Soviet Russia American ingenuity repeatedly frustrate censorship all over the world instances of quick witted evasion tricks by my overseas colleagues are
both legions a number and a cherished legend among newspaperman ruses and codes of all sorts are employed with remarkable success. When Venezuela's dictator was overthrown in 1958 the New York Times had results simply cabled to a private Manhattan address shipment delivered relayed to the Times foreign desk. That message meant dictatorship ousted from Colombia in South America again to a private New York address the same correspondent cabled regret. Twenty four boilers out of order. Decoded that told the total killed in Colombia's revolt. When 20000 German invasion troops reached Norway by ship in 1940. I sent the same type of message and it got through. Even the notoriously
tough Soviet censors were recently fooled concluding his report on announced big reductions in the Soviet armed forces and agency newsman merely added Tell it to our soldiers and sailors even tell it to the Marines. Every American reader knew what that meant. If handouts in foreign countries are slanted How does the news man protect himself and the American public from simply passing on his propaganda in undiluted form. Howard K. Smith on that question. I think he has to have contacts on all sides of a problem. And when the Foreign Office for example hands out a handout he should have enough experience to know what biases and prejudices to not prejudices what biases to expect what what it is they're trying to sell. He should be able to contact the say say it's on the Cyprus question. You get the British view if you know anything if you've studied the Cyprus question you know with the British bias on that is the next thing you do is to get in touch with the
Greeks and get their commentary on this. And then between the two with your own judgment you apply it and believe your story. I don't think it's a serious problem I think with some background it can be done. Professor Stowe. In fact US journalism has important built in truth protecting practices. Every reporter must attribute his sources state clearly who said what if he fails to attribute the origin of any statement especially from government or party sources. His editors will immediately take him sharply to task with newspapers this is an obligatory procedure in addition I'd say that correspondents of any experience know when to. Detect propaganda and are always on guard against it. The radio correspondent has an obvious advantage over the newspaper correspondent.
His statements once they pass foreign censorship usually reach the ear of the American public directly. But the reporter for magazines and newspapers seldom speaks to his audience directly. Howard K. Smith for instance stated that he thought news magazine writing is the least satisfactory form of reporting I know. We asked him point you know when I said that writing for a news magazine was not satisfactory. I did not mean that the length of the material you write isn't satisfactory I mean that so little is published you get very little pride of authorship in anything you do. In fact the final judgment is exercised on the newspaper or on the magazine itself. And frequently they don't use anything you say and often they change your story around completely to give the opposite impression to the one you've given. I recall an incident during the war. I was one of the first correspondents to be made aware that a man named Tito existed and had partisans in Yugoslavia at that time the prevailing impression was that there was a man named Heil of it who was
in charge. And I wrote stories about Tito which were then twisted around and made to appear as though they were stories about an islet which was almost a forced vacation to the fact almost all of the men interviewed on this subject seemed dissatisfied in one way or another with the quality of foreign news coverage or with the amount appearing in many American magazines and newspapers as well as over the air. Who or what is to blame here once again is Eric Sevareid. The problem of war and those lies here. It doesn't so much lie overseas unless you're working in a place like Russia where it's a terrible battle to get anything worthwhile out. But those conditions are well known to everybody. The problem really lies here and those papers are going to try to have their own man abroad and this is going to try to pick out young men and women and train them in languages and cultures of foreign countries that we're going to do the same thing and that's going to give them space and time.
But what they produced then for there was never going to be pervaded the American public very adequately or any kind of stimulating or provocative form. But that's a question of newspaper and and broadcasting management I think. There's no point. There isn't much point in having a lot of very able man around the world and the network let's say. If they're going to have very little time on television every two or three times a year and some documentary or other radio is going to be reduced. Reporting in from abroad and radio is reduced to just a minute and a half a day or two minutes and these little snippets of news nobody can do very serious work that way. That's a problem in this town. You can't leave it just to the agencies. After all the problem is not just getting facts about the world across the great deluge of facts. Problem is to get.
Space for people who understand these cultures who have some more profound concept of what this whole struggle in the world is about all it's. As nickel and cultural and religious as well as military and political. Aspects as a profound rebellion of the elements going on all over the world against everything that we've known. And cherished and lived by and for hundreds of years. This has to be brought home to people. There are men who can do this but they have got to have space in the press and the magazines and time on the air to do it. That's far too mechanically done now not enough good men abroad. And those that are abroad simply do not have the opportunity they ought to have. Marcus trials columnist and Washington reporter helped to throw additional light on this problem. All I've spent on the average of three to four months abroad for the past seven or eight
years I would guess on the average and I meet a lot of permanent correspondents and this is the complaint they owe me that they send it back or they undertake to send it back. And there is no receptivity for it. Already they are they they do send it back and it doesn't get it in the newspapers. Now if it were the exception. Again it's you can't judge it. But this is a very serious thing and it's for foreign correspondents abroad for those who would like to be foreign correspondents this is a very very depressing business. It goes back to exactly the same thing we were talking of the American people are too distracted to visit too indifferent. It would at least have never been never been given a reason why they should not. It will install would you have any comment to make on this subject of responsibility in regard to our publisher's share of the responsibility. A recent survey by the International Press Institute reveals these sobering facts. The average newspaper among one hundred
five important U.S. dailies publishes barely four columns of foreign news per issue. The survey cited another equally disturbing fact that the average American citizen devotes only about 18 and one half minutes to reading his newspaper and only a little over two minutes reading World News. That means merely some 12 column inches of international new each day. If the problem lies here in this country what about reports from behind the Iron Curtain from Soviet Russia in particular. We queried Robert Magee doff on this aspect of the problem the climate in this country is such now and has been for several years such that a correspondent I'm afraid feels that he cannot go in whole heartedly into a Soviet story and
present it from the point of view of the Russian people. And see and show it. As the Russians see it and I feel that in order to understand a nation one has to sort of get immersed into the life that they lead. And present that from their point of view. Without of course losing the detachment the objectivity of an American correspondent I think that a newspaper mans and his editors responsibility to the public is to give them as ramified as significant and full a picture as possible. And only then take into account the public reaction and public opinion. I I would. Blame it much more on the actual on the actual editors or whatever it is rather than on the public. And right now especially after the sputniks.
And I think the American public would be willing to accept a fooler and and I think probably maybe without realizing it is yearning for a fuller picture of Russia. Than is being given that right now. Admitting that there are obstacles to the presentation and depth of foreign news in the United States. What about the men who are being sent abroad to overseas bureaus. Are they better than the reporters of 10 years ago. Howard K. Smith again. It's another thing I think we have better men much better equipment doing the job now yet they have less publicized in there's less glamour attached to their jobs than there ever was. I would invite an experiment. I would invite you to undertake an experiment. Pick up. Inside Europe which was the Bible about Europe for most Americans when they began becoming aware of Europe for the first time in the thirties.
Inside Europe by John Gunther glanced through it today and note on what a very low level it is. Low level of information incumbent John Gunter I like very much by the way I think is one of the newer geniuses of this business. But then take his latest book. The one about Russia or the his penultimate book the one about Africa and read them on a much higher level. Yet they don't get the enormous publicity that inside Europe get. I think that our standards for judging and for knowing about foreign affairs have increased so much that a man has to be better today. A reporter has to be better. I think they're more scholarly. I said to you some time ago that I thought it one time and it was in the tradition of Americans not to know the language of the country they reported on now it's essential and they all know it they learn it. I think we have a much better type of man but the job has become somewhat more commonplace than it was it doesn't have the trench coat called glamour anymore. I think that it's vastly improved and scholarship is necessary.
If scholarship is necessary we're a future corespondents going to obtain their training. Eric Sevareid there are people who are training themselves hoping to get into these fields I have young men and women coming here all the time. They're up at Columbia studying Russian or they're off somewhere else and some Institute studying Chinese languages and the cultures are Arabic. They would like nothing better. They have an opportunity to work this foreign correspondence with Lowder and they have some experience training themselves and they have missed bases but I don't find big papers or networks or magazines searching out these people. And seeing themselves if they get trained. Very little of that goes on very little forward looking here in those respects. A lot of them anyway will have their hearts broken because they want you to want get the job when they get the jobs they want have the opportunity the space and the time to do what they should be doing. That's why a lot of them write books. You can't blame them.
Do you believe we asked Mr severance that languages in the study of culture are more important than a new sense. No I don't think that people who got the knack of knowing what news is how to find it and how to write it. That doesn't mean that. They have to be somebody off a police beat somewhere who has never studied any languages not studied much history they mustn't be. There's no reason why you can't find good journalists who have this kind of equipment. At least I don't know why there's any reason you can't. I'm sure it's possible. We asked Robert McGee to off what qualities he would like to see in the ideal foreign correspondent should he for instance if he plans to report from Russia have a knowledge of scientific facts in addition to languages and culture. No I think the newsman has to be more aware of social factors. Than scientific facts.
Because the scientific facts to matters are secrets both here and in Russia. It. I think it's useful I mean extremely solve for the newsman to have a knowledge of science but I think it would be it is incomparably more important for a newsman to be a social philosopher if you will excuse the expression rather than a scientist. If a choice has to be made. The ideal newsman would would have to be the ideal man. The Greek conception of the ideal man who is all round was rounded and his knowledge and in his objective contemplation of man and reality. We have but this is an ideal we can only hope for in this country which is free and where ultimately the public makes the decisions. The big decisions are the choice of people and whose opinion
is. Is being taken into account by the people who are in positions to act. This public has to be much more informed than it is informed now. And I think the demands on the newspaperman are now I think his responsibility you know goes much beyond the responsibility that a an American newspaper man ever had in the whole history of American journalism. It's just oh is there anything you would like to add to what Robert may get off has just said only that the need for American citizens to be much better informed cannot possibly be over emphasized. Our ablest scientists economists and other specialists agree that competition from the communist bloc powers is certain to become increasingly strong. Most ominously in science and technology in education
and in world markets and trade within 20 to 40 years time the red regimes are determined to surpass the n tired free west indecisive elements of power to become the dominant powers on earth. What our government and our voters do or fail to do in these momentous years ahead will chiefly decide our long term fate our fate as human beings. Either our freedoms and our living standards will be maintained or they will be drastically diminished in our lifetimes and ultimately become indefensible. We shall all need to know exactly how this freedom or enslavement struggle is progressing. What is at stake. Step by step what actions and policies we ourselves must support for our own safety. We may be sure that our foreign correspondents will
report all the crucial facts. But Eric Sevareid is right. The problem is here the executives of all our news media must get many more facts and more interpretation of their meaning into print and on radio and TV. We the American people must devote more time and effort to digesting and understanding all the issues which will determine our survival in the immediate years and decades ahead. This today is the fateful responsibility of each of us as citizens. To my mind it is the first requisite to the preservation of our perilously threatened way of life. Thank you Mr. Stowe. You have been listening to the foreign correspondent one of a series of programs on news in 20th century America in this series we
News in 20th Century America
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Foreign Corres.
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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News in 20th Century America is a radio series on the gathering, writing, and dissemination of news. Each episode addresses a specific topic in the news industry, and features interviews with men and women who make news their business. This program is produced by the University of Michigan Broadcasting Service in cooperation with the National Association of Educational Broadcasters.
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Chicago: “News in 20th Century America; 1; Foreign Corres.,” 1959-01-26, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 6, 2023,
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APA: News in 20th Century America; 1; Foreign Corres.. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from