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Guest Thinkers

Spooks Bemoan the Death of Newspapers

We imagine spying in terms of cutting edge technology and clandestine intrigue, but a lot of important intelligence work involves more mundane strategies like reading newspapers. In recent years, cash-strapped news organizations have slashed their overseas bureaus and recalled foreign correspondents and the intelligence community is feeling the bite.

At a recent panel at the National Press Club, Daniel Butler of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the death of international news makes it more difficult for analysts to follow events overseas.

When an interest group starts bitching and moaning about the death of news, the standard rejoinder is, “Well, help pay for it!” In this case? Uh, thanks but no thanks.

The sad part is that real reporting is being insourced and proprietary. We take it for granted that the average person can read high quality news from all over the world for the price of a newspaper, or even for free online. That’s an incredible democratic equalizer.

People don’t stop needing that information just because newspapers can’t afford to offer it. So, sectors that really need to know are hiring their own analysts to provide that information on a proprietary basis. Intelligence agencies have snapped up a lot of out-of-work foreign correspondents in recent years. The beat goes on, but the public loses out.

[Photo credit: flickr user Michael @NW Lens, licensed under Creative Commons.]


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