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10/21/2012

A dwindling U.S. press corps in Mexico

The future suddenly looks dimmer for those hungry for English-language news of Mexico. The press corps in Mexico City has just grown immeasurably smaller.

Last week was the final week for the Houston Chronicle’s longtime Mexico City bureau chief, Dudley Althaus, who has been in Mexico City for about 23 years.

Like all newspapers, the Hearst Corp.’s Houston Chronicle has faced huge financial challenges with an erosion of readers and advertising. According to Dudley, the Chron has decided to go intensely local, focusing on a 100-mile radius of Houston. So they shut their Mexico bureau as of Friday and Dudley is no longer employed.

From my perspective, such a decision is short-sighted. To understand the importance of Mexico to Texans, consider:

/ 807,600 jobs in the state of Texas depend on trade with Mexico.

/ Texas exports $72 billion worth of goods and services to Mexico each year.

/ And of course, Houston’s oil and energy companies do billions of dollars of business with Mexico annually.

Yet the economics of running newspapers these days is very complicated. And that is hurting those who want Mexico explained to them in English by veteran journalists imbued in the culture, politics and history of the country.

Increasingly, news consumers have to turn to blogs, specialty publications and news aggregators to find news of Mexico. McClatchy stands alongside the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Dallas Morning News and NPR in maintaining staff correspondents here. We try to dig a little deeper than the steady flow of factual reports from the Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP and the BBC.

Dudley has always been one of the more poetic writers of the group. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1992, and his forte has been delving into issues of poverty and human rights. He knows Mexico probably better than any of the rest of us. He mixed the sensibilities of an Ohio-bred Navy veteran with deep compassion for and understanding of Mexico.

There’ll be no more Chronicle stories from Dudley. Thankfully, he is staying in Mexico and likely will find several outlets that hunger for his expertise. But the dwindling of such fulltime correspondents is sad news to those who understand how closely the fates of the United States and Mexico are linked.

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Maria J

I love to explore I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Tim J

Of course, David, my brief oversight. Ken Ellingwood has left the paper and now lives in China. His replacement is Richard Fausset. Tracy is a correspondent's correspondent. I once tried to replace her in a wire service job for UPI in Peru more than a quarter century ago. Hard shoes to fill.

David

Fortunately, we still have Ken Ellingwood, Richard Marosi, Tracy Wilkinson and Daniel Hernandez working for the LA Times. And you with McClatchy, of course.

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Tim

This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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