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Take it From the New York Times: It's Really Easy To Become A Foreign Correspondent

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Message Eric Wingerter

Looking for a glamorous new job in an exotic land working for a bigshot international newspaper? It may be easier than you think! Seriously.

As the New York Times’ Simon Romero shows us, all it takes is a good grasp of conventional wisdom, access to the wire services, and a short rolodex of contacts for a couple of pithy new quotes. Oh and a blender! Fruity rum drinks are a must in the tropics.

Once in a while you may want to mix it up with an original story on your favorite local vacation spot, peculiar wildlife or cheesy local gossip, but really, you don’t need to get too crazy.

A quick look at Romero’s Venezuela stories over the last few months shows that roughly 80% of them came from sources other than his own noggin.

So join me on a trip to Margaritaville! We’ll even bring along the laz-o-meter to rank each story.

Here we go. In chronological order:

Legislature Grants Chavez Broad New Powers to Shape Venezuela
February 1, 2007

Storyline: Chavez gets supersized.
Point of Interest: Some Venezuelans like their president; others don’t.
Originality: While short on substance, the article is long on…tardiness. This had all been written up two weeks earlier by Voice of America, and they're one of those ineffiecient state run news outlets. Hell, even I had published an article on this two days earlier.
Laziness Score: ZZZZ (out of 5)

'76 Bomb Resonates With Diplomats, Not With the Bomber
[Link not available]
February 3, 2007
Storyline: An interview with the terrorist who blew up planes with Luis Posada Carriles.
Point of Interest: Although families of the dead still hate him, the terrorist lives in quiet obscurity today, which pretty much destroys Posada’s extradition defense.
Originality: A rare Simon Romero exclusive!
Laziness Score: Z

Chavez Threatens to Jail Violators of Price Controls
February 17, 2007

Storyline: Tyrannical dictator threatens lawbreakers with U.S.-style “jury trials.”
Point of Interest: Mad, hot hyperbolic quotes: ''If the government insists on sticking to policies that are clearly failing, we may be headed down the road of Zimbabwe.''
Originality: The “jail threat” lede was announced on Venezuelan TV the day before. The rest of the story, on Venezuela’s inflation, was covered by the Associated Press nine days earlier.
Laziness Score: ZZZZ

Expanding Power Puts Family of Venezuelan President Under Increasing Scrutiny
February 13, 2007

Storyline: V-slime gets slung as Romero travels to Chavez’ hometown.
Point of Interest: Chavez’s mom has a poodle! His brother drives a hummer!
Originality: Umm, nobody else would cover this crap. A Simon Romero exclusive!
Laziness Score: Z

Venezuela Rivals U.S. in Aid to Bolivia
February 23, 2007

Storyline: Chavez is taking over where the U.S. left off, only without all that good ol’ American benevolence.
Point of Interest: Moderate headline aside, Venezuelan aid to Bolivia actually obliterates that of the US.
Originality: Aside from the groovy numbers estimates, this is virtually the same story that was published in the LA Times two weeks before.
Laziness Score: ZZZ

Chavez Ends Busy Week Aiding Venezuela's Latin Neighbors
February 24, 2007

Storyline: Chavez blows Venezuela’s fortune on aid to Nicaragua, Ecuador and Argentina.
Point of Interest: The Argentine bond buyout, which generated millions of dollars for Venezuela’s treasury, is portrayed as a giveaway.
Originality: The Washington Post published the same story, with far more detail, the day before.
Laziness Score: ZZZZ

Venezuela Spending on Arms Soars to World's Top Ranks
February 25, 2007

Storyline: Chavez wants to blow up your kids
Point of Interest: According to media watchdog groups, virtually every statistic cited in this article is bullshit.
Originality: Bloomberg reported the same BS numbers three days earlier.
Laziness Score: ZZZZZ

Chavez Shares Some Airtime With Castro
[No link available]
February 28, 2007
Storyline: Despite US “intelligence”, Castro is still alive.
Point of Interest: Romero transcribes portions of the conversation.
Originality: Everyone published this story the same day. I mean, it was on TV, you don’t even need to get out of your recliner.
Laziness Score: ZZZZ

Venezuela and Iran Strengthen Ties With Caracas-to-Tehran Flight
March 3, 2007

Storyline: Conviasa Airlines begin weekly flight between Venezuela and Iran.
Point of Interest: Romero manages to link “tourism” and “Iran’s uranium enrichment program.”
Originality: AP had run the story three weeks earlier. Romero even borrowed the same quote from the Iranian Ambassador in Caracas from the AP piece.
Laziness Score: ZZZZZ

Venezuela to Give Currency New Name and Numbers
March 18, 2007

Storyline: Chavez is an economic retard if he thinks “redenominating” will solve the country’s inflation problem
Point of Interest: This “startling” announcement that “baffled” economists ignores the actual inflation-fighting plan, which worked.
Originality: Romero seemed to have copied his entire analysis, mistakes and all, from a Bloomberg story that ran a full month earlier.
Laziness Score: ZZZZZ

Health Inspectors Take Note: Rodents Can Be a Delicacy
March 21, 2007

Storyline: Venezuelans like to eat big rats & pretend its fish.
Point of Interest: Capybaras eat their own poop.
Originality: A Simon Romero Exclusive!
Laziness Score: Z

Cuba and Venezuela, the Odd Couple
[no link available]
April 1, 2007
Storyline: Unlike Cuba, Venezuela is riddled with crime, fake breasts.
Point of Interest: Cubans take the crap jobs that Venezuelans won’t.
Originality: Not only was the “light bulb” portion of this story covered by AP back in November, but Romero notes that he got his interviews when the “three Cubans lugging bags of light bulbs showed up at this reporter's home.” !!! What next? The lives of Mormon missionaries or mailmen?
Laziness Score: ZZZZZ

A New Decree From Chavez: Less Elbow-Bending
April 4, 2007

Storyline: Venezuela restricts alcohol sales hours during violence prone holiday.
Point of Interest: Everyone f*cking breaks the law.
Originality: The AP story had been tearing up the internet for 5 days (with the hyper-paranoid subhead “some suspect measure inspired by Iran”) before Romero got around to copying independently verifying it.
Laziness Score: ZZZZZ

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I am a freelance writer with a special focus on Latin America. My blog, deals with Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution and its portrayal in the U.S. press.
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