Scope and arrangement
The records of the Foreign Desk represent the Times' efforts to preserve as a unit the files of its foreign news operation. The collection consists chiefly of correspondence between the news editors in New York and the foreign correspondents stationed abroad in the form of letters, cables and confidential memoranda. Beginning in the 1980s, the files contain mostly copies of messages transmitted through computers. Emanuel R. Freedman's long tenure (1948-1965) is reflected in his disproportionate share of the correspondence in the collection. In addition to correspondence, the files usually contain biographical sketches and photographs.
The records are divided into two sections, a biographical section which includes mainly the files on the foreign correspondents (and a few others) arranged alphabetically by last name, and a subject section which covers the files on the foreign news bureaus, the stringers, the editorial policies, and the news coverage of geographic regions such as Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, etc. Many cross-references facilitate the access to both sections. For the few staff members who swapped their role of foreign correspondents for the duties of news editors or assistant news editors, the files are divided. As foreign correspondents their papers are usually collected under their names, but as news editors their correspondence is scattered throughout the collection under the appropriate file subjects. This is true of the files of Clifton Daniel, Sidney Gruson, Seymour Topping, Abe M. Rosenthal, Craig Whitney, Warren Hoge and a few others.
The files document how the foreign news operation of the Times changed over time. Much of the correspondence is devoted to discussions of various approaches to news coverage of situations in foreign countries. The news events themselves are not the main focus. How the news is covered and reported is the dominant topic. Throught these files one can trace changes in the compositon of the reporting staff, in the function served by the news bureau, and in editorial policies, as well as the emergence of specific news features in the paper, such as "The Talk of ..." and "Reporter's Notebook".
A frequent topic of discussion is the need to insert more of "the human element" into the news, with more quotations from members of the public rather than from local newspapers; more coverage of various parts of a country rather than just its capital; and more reporting on the local culture rather than only on political events.
The correspondence also reveals aspects of the daily life of the foreign correspondents such as quarrels with the editing staff in New York over changes in news stories, and the frustration of reporting from totalitarian countries, where reporters were often under the threat of expulsion.
The New York Times Company records. Foreign Desk records are arranged in two series:
The People section contain files on the foreign correspondents arranged alphabetically. Since the correspondents constantly moved within their assigned territories and from one assignment to another, their correspondence with the New York office was maintained in their individual files. However, letters pertaining to major issues can be found in the Subject section of the records.
For the major foreign bureaus files, the cross-references provide a listing of the names of the correspondents according to the dates they served in each particular office. This makes it easy to trace the succession of correspondents in a bureau or a particular country.
The records on individual stringers are filed under the name of the country assigned to the stringer. The records therefore of all the stringers in one country will be found in one folder. For example: Guatemala stringers. The content of each folder is in alphabetical order under the name of the stringer. Each name is cross-referenced to provide easy access to the files. If a stringer worked for a Times News Bureau, the records are then filed under the name of that bureau which is the same as the name of the city where it is located. For example: Geneva Bureau:stringers.