COUPS AND EARTHQUAKES: Reporting the World for America by Mort Rosenblum

COUPS AND EARTHQUAKES: Reporting the World for America

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Why the news of the world is fragmentary, distorted, inaccurate, and otherwise unreliable. With one-and-a-half eyes on journalism majors and media freaks, and some pointers for the befuddled public, AP veteran Rosenblum scores a competitive system that encourages hyping and discourages solid backgrounding; the decline in the number of correspondents abroad (from a post-WW II high of 2500 to about 430 in the mid-1970s)--which fosters multi-crisis ""parachute"" journalism and reliance on native ""stringers"" susceptible to local pressures; plus some trade practices that routinely hamper conscientious foreign correspondents. Rosenblum would like editors to trust their reporters to simply state the facts rather than insisting on attributions--especially to ""unimpeachable sources"" and other unidentifiable informants. He'd be happier with fewer scorching ""rockets"" (""Others have. . . need ours soonest"") and more margin for error (only a fluke, he points out, kept David Halberstam from mistaking another man for the downed Dag Hammarskjold in the Congo--and being sent home rather than on to Vietnam). But on the whole his account is descriptive and illustrative rather than seriously analytical or prescriptive. He pays appreciative tribute to (and elicits spirited comments from) such noted by-liners as Homer Bigart, Flora Lewis, and Jack Foisie; a few outstanding photographers; and at least one praiseworthy editor. He explains the difficulty of ferreting out sources, getting through closed doors (and then remaining ""omnipresent but invisible""), circumventing censorship, and physically relaying the story. He speaks briefly--and gently--of the problems of TV reporting; and flatteringly of the amplification that a score of magazines provide. He knows what riles foreigners, especially in the developing countries; why war correspondents lose sleep (suppose you see a Buddhist monk about to immolate himself?); how much impact economic and human-rights reporting has--and how easily the reader is misled. The book has little snap or sparkle or intellectual pith; but it's a modest, useful indoctrination in the bizarre (a favorite word) rules of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row