Dalton Delan: Foreign news reporting has devolved to sound bites | Opinion

Twenty-three years ago, legendary French mercenary Robert Denard and 33 of his men in Zodiac boats landed for the fourth and final time on the shores of the Comoro Islands in southeast Africa.

By the time of their short-lived September 28, 1995, coup, Bob had under his belt a prior 11 years as head of the island nations presidential guard, which was when I knew him as a member of a network documentary unit. Tall as a ships mast and with a stylish limp won in some African battle or other, he was every inch the swashbuckling mystery man I had spent months tracking down.

That was how it was in those days. To pursue the news could mean crisscrossing continents, chasing leads, spending nights as an involuntary passenger on a pirate ship, you name it. I was young and dumb enough to do it. And the network didnt blink.

With cash in pocket, I would bribe my way across borders, knowing that almost everywhere I went we had a bureau, a fixer, a knowledgeable correspondent who could ease my way and take the lead or back me up as the case might be. If I landed in Paris, Id walk through the situation with ABC News Bureau Chief Pierre Salinger, no stranger to danger.  In Asia, Jim Laurie.

TV news wasnt supposed to make money then. It was there to satisfy FCC requirements for public service by broadcasters. Men such as Walter Cronkite who led the network newscasts had frequently come out of radio, and practiced a You Are There sort of journalism. They were steeped in the Edward R. Murrow traditio....

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