News & Politics

Times Now Dominates Foreign-Affairs Beat in Washington; Post Is Scrambling to Keep Up

Newspapers are shedding reporters, closing bureaus, and ceasing to publish on some days, but the New York Times appears to be sparing little expense on diplomatic coverage out of Washington.

“I am pleased to tell you I haven’t seen evidence of cost-cutting at the New York Times,” chief Washington correspondent David Sanger says. “We have a number of projects under way. I have never sat in a meeting and heard someone say we don’t have the money.”

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, diplomatic coverage from Washington was relatively stable. The Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, and other major dailies covered the State Department, Defense, and other centers of foreign affairs.

Now there are three dailies in the game: the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Wire services such as Bloomberg, the Associated Press, and the BBC cover foreign affairs, but for depth of reporting most savvy readers still depend on daily dispatches from the big three.

The Times seems to have the strongest stable of veteran foreign-affairs writers. Mark Landler is on the plane with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Eric Schmitt has been covering terrorism for years, Thom Shanker is at the Pentagon with Elisabeth Bumiller, and Mark Mazzetti handles intelligence.

The Times also can also rely on diplomatic coverage from White House correspondent Helene Cooper, who has “a minor in foreign policy,” says DC bureau chief Dean Baquet. White House correspondent Peter Baker, who was a foreign correspondent at the Post, can weigh in.

Scott Shane is a Times investigative reporter who concentrates on intelligence and foreign affairs. Counting Michael Gordon at the Pentagon, who’s on book leave, the Times has ten reporters on the foreign-affairs beats.

The Washington Post has seven: Karen DeYoung and Jeff Smith roam from national security to foreign affairs, Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus write about intelligence, Glenn Kessler covers diplomacy at State, Peter Finn reports on terrorism, and Ann Scott Tyson is at the Pentagon.

The Post is looking to fill the void from losing some top veterans: Robin Wright went to the Woodrow Wilson Center, and Mike Abramowitz left for the Holocaust Museum. Tom Ricks, one of the best military reporters in the business, took a buyout from the Post. Michael Dobbs was a reliable voice on foreign affairs; he most recently wrote the “fact check” column on the accuracy of presidential-campaign ads.

David Sanger, who just published his first book, The Inheritance, on Barack Obama’s diplomatic challenges and who recently spoke at the Aspen Institute’s Roundtable Series, says he devotes about half of his time to foreign affairs.

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