There has been copious research over the years concerning foreign correspondents, but news professionals working in their own countries but for distant audiences only garnered passing attention of researchers. But such news-staff – who have been described as local-foreign – have long played important roles within international news production. To gather news in areas considered difficult to access for foreign journalists, local people are engaged by foreign journalists as logistical and linguistic aides, known as ‘fixers’. Local journalists – including visual journalists – are also increasingly employed by global news organisations to produce news from their home countries for distant and diverse foreign audiences. Local activists and non-governmental organisations and foreign news organisations increasingly collaborate to produce international news. As the costs of international news production rise and budgets for foreign bureaus are cut, and as the protracted conflicts of the 21st century have proved increasingly dangerous for foreign correspondents to navigate on their own, the importance of the local collaborators has grown. Consequently, ‘local-foreign news production’ can be understood as expanding in magnitude and in the kind of actors involved.
In light of these changes, scholars have argued, international news today needs to be understood as a chorus of voices – both foreign and local as well as professional and non-professional. Research has shown that these voices within local-foreign news production arise from distinct geo-cultural but comparable socio-economic backgrounds in different parts of the world. International journalistic processes can also be shaped by both local story-telling objectives as well as efforts to conform news narratives to those perceived as preferred by foreign clients and audiences. The growing importance of local-foreign news workers is also understood as giving rise to tensions between international news-staff and local news-staff who work side by side. These tensions have been noted to arise from non-recognition of the journalistic labour provided by the local news-staff by international correspondents of news organisations, differing news values among international and local news-staff as well as differing working and employment conditions of the local news-workers as opposed to their international colleagues and counterparts. Research has shown that the work of local-foreign news-workers is typified by more precarious, and often dangerous, conditions of employment. In the case of the news-fixers, researchers are striving to better understand the nature of news-work performed by them because we are yet to understand the emotional and cultural aspects of the journalistic labour they perform. Furthermore, the long-criticized hegemonic practices within international news production which prioritise Western perspectives and norms are giving rise to frictions within international media organisations as local news-staff struggle to come to terms with them. The prospect of the stereotypes and biases in news produced from Western perspectives being challenged from within the processes of international news production by the local news-staff has been shown to be real, but dependent on the established hierarchies of editorial power within international news production processes changing from its current configurations.
The shift to reliance on local fixers and journalists within international news production continues unabated today as does the reliance on locally-based non-professional sources. This special issue is inspired by the need for geographically broad, theoretically deep, methodologically sound, and culturally sensitive understandings of these under-investigated processes of change.
We invite contributions addressing any of the following questions:
- Is local-foreign news production ‘new’ or just more visible than before? What are the historical trajectories of and factors behind the recent growth in local-foreign collaboration within international news-gathering?
- Are locally-based activists and NGO workers who collaborate in or provide a parallel production of international news, part of local-foreign news production? Should they be included within future research on local-foreign news production? What other type of news-related work can form part of local-foreign news production?
- Are local news-staff safer or in more danger because they are local? In what ways do the threats and dangers faced by local news-staff differ from their international colleagues?
- Are the precarious employment situations of the local news-staff changing as this type of news-work becomes more entrenched within international news production? What are the measures being taken by the news industry and the news-workers themselves, against their precarious labour?
- Is the increasing importance of local-foreign news-workers within international newsgathering giving rise to tensions and conflicts within newsroom and news production structures of international media organisations? Do these tensions and conflicts reflect a battle within the traditional gatekeeping processes on which international news organisations relied?
- In what ways do the local employees of international news organisations facilitate understanding of local events and actors across cultural, ideological, and linguistic boundaries for international journalists, as well as for international audiences through their journalistic labour? How are their local knowledge, contextual understanding, cultural sensitivities and political affinities – their ‘cultural capital’ – negotiated with their professional affiliations and knowledge, by them and their employers?
- Have local news professionals – and locally-based activists and NGO workers – now come to wield editorial power in the telling of global news stories by playing gatekeeping roles within global news production? Are there other, less understood ways that they are able to influence the production of global news stories and images?
- How do local news professionals perceive their professional role as journalists and conduct their journalistic work for distant audiences? Do their perceptions and practices differ from their international colleagues? In what ways? What are the implications of any potential differences in professional role perceptions of local-foreign news staff?
Articles should be between 6000 and 9000 words in length.
We will notify authors if their abstract has been accepted by 12th October, 2018, and full papers should be submitted for peer review by 14 January, 2019. An invitation to submit does not guarantee inclusion in the special issue. We hope for publication in mid-2019.