Monday 1 November 2010

Thinner foreign news despite fatter newspapers

Foreign news coverage is declining in the UK press despite newspapers growing in size, according to a new report Shrinking World: the decline of international reporting in the British press published by the Media Standards Trust today.

This report analyses how coverage of the world had changed over the last 30 years in four UK national newspapers, the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, and the Mirror and explores what implications this has for how we get our foreign news in the future.

The report claims:
  • Foreign news coverage across four UK national newspapers has fallen by 40% since 1979 in absolute terms
  • International news makes up only 11% of the national newspapers studied compared to 20% in 1979.
  • There has been an 80% drop in the number of foreign news stories within the first 10 pages.

The report shows how foreign coverage has declined despite newspapers having increased in size. As a consequence, the report says, international news stories now make up – on average – just over a tenth of total stories in the four newspapers studied.

The report’s findings are based on a content analysis of foreign news stories across an average working week in the four UK national newspapers – - in 1979, 1989, 1999 and 2009. It finds that the number of foreign news stories across the newspapers declined in each decade since 1979: from just over 500 international stories published in the first week of March 1979, to 428 in 1989, to 341 (1999), to 308 (2009).

At the same time the newspapers themselves were getting larger, meaning that as a proportion of the print paper international news shrank from 20% to 16% to 13% to 11%.

David Loyn, foreign correspondent at the BBC who wrote the foreword to the report, said: “The decline in red top tabloids shown in this MST report is perhaps no surprise. But the slide in column inches and prominence of foreign stories among the ‘broadsheets’ should ring alarm bells.”

Martin Moore, author of the report and director of the Media Standards Trust, said: “The slump in foreign correspondence catalogued in this report is significant but not terminal. Newspapers still have a great opportunity to reinvent international reporting, but they better move quickly or they’ll be superseded”.

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