Americans have become indifferent to foreign affairs since the fall of communism, Bernard M. Gwertzman '57, foreign editor of The New York Times, told a crowd of more than 40 yesterday at a brown bag lunch at the Kennedy School of Government.
"Americans as a nation are really uninterested in foreign affairs," Gwertzman said.
He said that the shift of emphasis from foreign to domestic affairs in the 1992 presidential election might have signaled a period of "neo-isolationism."
"The American public was saying they really wanted to look inward a bit," he said.
As a result, fewer lead stories in the Times relate to foreign issues, Gwertzman said.
Today foreign editors at the Times are trying to report on socio-economic rather than security issues. Gwertzman said readers are more concerned with business issues and human interest stories in foreign countries.
"So much of foreign affairs is going to revolve around trade now," Gwertzman said, adding that editors will also give more coverage to science and medical stories.
Some of the major foreign issues Gwertzman and his staff plan to cover in depth this month include the Israeli-Palestinian Liberation Organization agreement, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the Russian elections.
During the question and answer session, Gwertzman said the newspaper must print foreign stories of interest to the reader, even if it means narrowing coverage.
"We are not a paper of record. We cannot cover everything in the world," Gwertzman said. "Stories have to have resonance."
Gwertzman has covered foreign affairs at The New York Times since 1968, and he became foreign editor in July 1989.