What to know if you want to be a foreign correspondent

by Madison Temmel
May 13, 2021 in Specialized Topics
World map

To outsiders, the world of foreign correspondence often looks like an adventure. We imagine reporters jumping from region to region, with a recorder in hand, ready for the next story to tell audiences back home. Yet, this field of journalism is notoriously hard to get into.

Here are five tips for those who dream of reporting from distant lands.

Map the latest trends in the field

Look closely at how the industry is changing. That includes learning about freelance work, what countries require press credentials, who still has foreign bureau offices, the rise of virtual foreign bureaus, or focusing on groups who take a more collaborative approach to international reporting.

This will help you understand your options, how you can contribute to foreign reporting, and if this is really the industry you want to dive into.

[Read more: Understanding the role of a fixer]

Reach out to foreign correspondents

Freelance journalist Charlie Faulkner says she is constantly pitching stories, building contacts, and saving money for her next venture. That may be somewhere in Turkey following the LGBT community, within the crowd of protesters in Hong Kong, or covering women skiers in Afghanistan.

She encourages all aspiring foreign correspondents to reach out to journalists already in the field to get an idea of what it is like. It may be nerve-wracking at first but remember that all journalists were once rookies and are happy to share advice.

Become an expert on a region

If you dream of becoming embedded in one particular area, take time to develop a deeper understanding of that region. You can learn the language, read about the history and learn about the nuances of its culture. Although this is not necessary to become a foreign correspondent, it can help you become a more thoughtful reporter abroad.

Will Grant, a BBC correspondent in Mexico, Central America, and Cuba, discussed how a good understanding of a region can enhance storytelling, during a lecture at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. It is worth listening to if you are an aspiring foreign correspondent.

[Read more: How to make your freelance reporting sustainable]

Localize international news

Think about how a story abroad may affect your neighborhood, community, or your country as a whole.

This can help readers relate to the story and build interest in global events, and it can also give you a taste of foreign correspondence while at home. If you want some inspiration, check out this great example from Oregon Public Broadcasting focused on Rohingya refugees in Portland, Oregon.

Consume as much content as you can

Develop a broad understanding of what is happening in other countries and stay informed.

This can go beyond listening to reports coming from media outlets in your own country — find outlets based elsewhere. This will help view the news through a different lens and get a deeper understanding of different regions.


This article was originally published by Journalism.co.uk. It was republished on IJNet with permission.

Madison Temmel is a journalist and student at the University of Oregon.

Main image CC-licensed by Unsplash via George Bakos.