It is sad, but not particularly surprising, to read that the big U.S. television networks are closing up shop in Iraq.
Revenue is down, and war correspondents are terribly expensive, especially in a place like the Middle East, where they have to protect themselves from kidnapping, IEDs, and suicide bombings.
Conditions in Iraq have improved. And there are other wars that need covering—in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Still, it is stunning to think that 140,000 American troops remain at war in Iraq but the networks don't have full-time correspondents there, covering the story.
The broadcast giants are not alone. The Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun and other newspapers have closed their foreign bureaus, while the Tribune Co. is now completing a holiday massacre at the Los Angeles Times bureau in Washington—once one of the capital's best.
Much of the problem, and part of the solution, rests with the Internet. More and more Americans are getting their news for free online, where only a few businesses have discovered a way to make the kind of money—from subscriptions or ad rates—that the old news organizations made in their heyday.
You can find lots of clever and not-so-clever and ridiculously inaccurate stuff passing for news online but, if you think about it, relatively few sites with quality, reliable reporting.
A few traditional news organizations like the Associated Press, CNN, and the New York Times (and my colleagues at U.S. News) do the real work, and then everybody else chats about it.
I've joined one new band of journalists who hope, in time, to fill the vacuum left by the titans of old. It's an organization called GlobalPost, staffed by dozens of veteran foreign correspondents in all the major cities of the world who have banded together in a kind of entrepreneurial cooperative. We debut on January 12. I'll be covering U.S. foreign policy from Washington.
If the GlobalPost business model matches its nobility of purpose, we'll be a success. But whether it is we or another of a thousand flowers blooming in the countryside of the Net supplying the news, the need for quality journalism is, if anything, even more pronounced these days.
Especially in Iraq, where the verdict of America's involvement is years away and the Obama administration must find a way to end the conflict and bring the troops out safely—if only to shift them to Afghanistan. We should mourn the fact that the professionals at ABC, NBC, and CBS won't be there, covering the story.