ABC launches high-tech one-journalist mini bureaus

One-person overseas mini-bureaus are the latest trend for news organisations in the USA.

The bigger the newspaper or the news organization the larger the overseas news bureaus. That was the credo at one time.

Back in the Sixties the Associated Newspapers’ bureau in New York, presided over by Don Iddon, had a staff of half a dozen – not including secretaries and teleprinter operators. The Daily Telegraph next door had almost as many. While the BBC news department occupied almost an entire floor in the adjacent building in Rockefeller Plaza.

But that was then, not now. The latest trend in towards smaller mini-bureaus. Leading the trend is ABC News which is creating a whole network of one-person bureaus. The idea is that it will substantially boost its coverage in India, Africa and elsewhere.

The new small bureaus will be staffed with a single reporter with the latest in handheld technology. And will cost a lot less than the old fashioned multi-person bureaus.

The mini-bureaus are being opened in Seoul, Rio de Janeiro, Dubai, New Delhi and Mumbai, also in Jakarta and Nairobi.

Said ABC News President David Westin: ‘Technology now makes it possible for us to have bureaus without a receptionist, editing suites and studios”.

Each of the seven reporters in the new mini-bureaus will work from home and travel their region with a small DV camera and editing laptop. Some will have a portable satellite dish.

ABC claims its new mini-bureaus will cost no more than its old-fashioned Paris bureau. For the moment ABC is not planning to close major bureaus such as the one in London. But it could happen.

Will the idea spread to newspapers? Some predict mini-bureaus will replace the old-fashioned stringer system. Already the American TV networks, led by ABC, are talking of mini-bureaus in places like Iran, Cairo, Moscow – and maybe even inside the US itself.

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