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News Organizations Mobilizing Too

AFTER THE ATTACK | MEDIA / CULTURE

Reporting: Like the U.S. military, they're hastily redeploying their forces without being sure where the action will break out.

September 25, 2001|DAVID SHAW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After the Gulf War, Malcolm Browne, a New York Times reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Vietnam War, said that the pool system in the Gulf turned the 1,400 reporters there into "essentially unpaid employees of the Department of Defense." Thus, one of the principles approved by the journalists and the Pentagon in 1992 says, "Pools are not to serve as the standard of covering U.S. military operations."

However they cover the war, it's bound to be expensive for the nation's news media, and it comes at a time when news organizations already face declining profits. Newspaper ad expenditures declined 4.3% in the first quarter of this year and 8.4% in the second quarter. In response, many newspapers announced major cutbacks in space and personnel.

With the economy spiraling still further downward after the terrorist attacks, advertising revenues figure to continue falling, perhaps precipitously. So far, most newspapers have been spending virtually whatever money is necessary to cover the attacks and their aftermath--publishing extra editions and extra pages.

"In the first few days, the extra newsprint we used was offset by not printing stock tables or a lot of sports," says the Post's Downie. "But that's changing as we resume those things, and covering the war is going to get a lot more expensive when it comes time to cover the military action in a number of locations."

Already, editors are moving correspondents around the globe like pieces on a giant international chess board--uncertain where the action will be but determined to be as prepared as possible.

The Dallas Morning News has sent its Bangkok reporter to Islamabad, Pakistan; its Panama correspondent to Jordan; and its Havana reporter to Uzbekistan. Knight Ridder newspapers have sent their Moscow correspondent to Tajikistan, their Bogota and Hanoi reporters to Islamabad, their Nairobi reporter first to Jerusalem and then to Bahrain, and a Miami reporter to Cairo. Steven Butler, foreign editor for the Washington bureau of Knight Ridder, said Monday he hopes to send his South African correspondent to Tajikistan and then to northern Afghanistan.

The Los Angeles Times sent one of its three Moscow-based reporters to northern Afghanistan and a second, along with colleagues from New Delhi and Hong Kong, to Islamabad. The paper has dispatched its reporter in Bogota to the United Arab Emirates and its Houston reporter to Madrid. The Times' Atlanta correspondent is scheduled to go to Cairo today.

"Even with a large foreign staff, it's hard to plan since, apart from the Taliban in Afghanistan, there's no declared enemy," said Simon Li, foreign editor of the Los Angeles Times, which has 28 correspondents in 22 foreign bureaus. That is second among general-interest dailies to the New York Times, which has 37 reporters in 25 foreign bureaus.

The Washington Post's Bennett said his paper is "proceeding on the assumption that this will broadly be an unconventional war. We're trying to position people with that in mind. We sent someone from Moscow down through Tajikistan to northern Afghanistan, sent our Jakarta and New Delhi correspondents and one of our Istanbul correspondents to Islamabad, and sent someone from Rome to Jerusalem, our Nairobi reporter to Yemen, and our Tokyo reporter to the Philippines."

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