On the Spot - a study of foreign correspondents in the Middle East.
Foreign coverage in Danish and international media is changing. Journalistic concepts such as orientation, insight and immersion are being set aside in favour of ́constant actuality ́ and ́the reporting of moments’ (Luyendijk 2009; Kristensen & Ørsten 2006; Holm et al. 2000; Siune 1998; Bardoel 1996). What is the role of correspondents in the effort to produce trustworthy, authentic and balanced images of the world, when, at the same time, they have to meet an ever growing demand from editors back home to be ́faster ́, ́sharper ́, ́closer ́? In my PhD project, I want to investigate how foreign correspondents work: how do they find, make and create news? I want to get behind the detailed orchestrated surface of the news and try to understand how the correspondents’ stories arise, how they are designed and finally how they are put into the sphere of public mass communication. These questions are used as stepping-stones to a broader investigation into the criteria of validity, of objectivity and the relationship between knowledge and representation in foreign journalism. This basically leads to the fundamental question: how do we describe reality and what is the relationship between this representation and the reality? The project is based on an anthropological approach to the world of journalism. This implies that I want to analytically understand the practice of journalism from the perspective of the correspondent. It is a study about humans, individual agency and navigation in journalistic work. I want to create an understanding of the correspondents not as a distanced group or unit, but as journalists of flesh and blood; as people who are “going through life agonising over decisions, making mistakes, trying to make themselves look good, enduring tragedies and personal losses, enjoying others and finding moments of happiness”, as the anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod once wrote of her informants in Brazil’s slums (1991:158). The predominant method in collecting empirical material is four to eight months of ethnographic fieldwork among permanently settled foreign correspondents in the Middle East and among correspondents stationed there for a shorter period of time (four months already conducted). I follow them throughout their day; at work and in their spare time. As an integrated part of my study, I seek what Clifford Geertz calls ‘a deep hanging out’ with the correspondents, e.g. in the evenings in their homes with their families or for an drink in town after work. It is a way of obtaining an insight into their lives that is not being said, not reflected in conversations, but only bodily felt and expressed – and which characterise both the correspondents and their work.