outsourcing local reporting to india

I suppose it was inevitable… At least one American media company has already begun outsourcing local reporting to India. Here’s a clip from CNN (via Crooks & Liars):

The job posting was a head-scratcher: “We seek a newspaper journalist based in India to report on the city government and political scene of Pasadena, California, USA.”

A reporter half a world away covering local street-light contracts and sewer repairs? A reporter who has never gotten closer to Pasadena than the telecast of the Rose Bowl parade?

Outsourcing first claimed manufacturing jobs, then hit services such as technical support, airline reservations and tax preparation. Now comes the next frontier: local journalism…

This may be a bit extreme, but clearly it’s in keeping with the general trend we’ve been seeing, first in local radio, and now in the local newspaper business. The industry is consolidating, local papers are being rolled up by out-of-state corporations, coverage of local events is drying up, the emphasis is being shifted toward syndicated content from elsewhere, and costs, along with people, are being slashed to the bone. While it’s probably true that not many local media outlets will end up using Indian stringers to cover city council meetings and the like, it’s getting hard to deny that we’re inching toward that destination.

Local papers, like it or not, are becoming nothing more than vehicles through which to sell advertising. The tie to the community is growing more and more tenuous… Case in point, it’s been almost six months now since our “local” paper closed it’s local office… Hopefully, one day there will be a rebound. America desperately needs good local journalism. In the meantime, those of us with blogs will keep doing what we can, but, in all honesty, we’ll never be more than a poor substitute.

[This post was brought to you by Project Censored.]

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  1. dr. teddy glass
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    90% of my comments are written by a small Portuguese man. “Witty comments in English, done dirt cheap.” That’s what the add said in the back of Rolling Stone. I’ve been very happy with his service. I’ve never met him, but I have spoken with his sister. She tells me that he types with his feet.

  2. schutzman
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    That’s nothing, Mr. Glass.

    My entire blog’s been written by a group of 11-year-old girls in calcutta for the last two years. I give them some general parameters, such as inserting “But I digress,” if the post length gets beyond 3,000 words, so as to make it seem more like my “style.”

    They love it when I let them write about alligators. Unfortunately, they keep inserting information about cobra attacks that I have to delete constantly.

    Generally, though, it’s a win-win situation.

    As soon as the next “news” site appears, I’m going to apply on their behalf for the reporter job, for which I’ll make $40,000 and send them each $40. All I need to do is then make sure they get the city council videos from one of the other “news” sites so that they can talk about what happened, maybe hook them up with a few google alerts (ypsi, ypsilanti, washtenaw, cool city, etc.) and they’ll be able to pass themselves off as a regular kathleen conat.

    It’s called “Yankee Ingenuity,” kids. You shouldn’t sell it short, as it’s what this country was founded upon (at least the civilized northern half, the southern part was founded on the subjugation of brown-skinned peoples, which this also involves).

    On a marginally more serious note, I have a friend who used to be a newspaper reporter, and I occasionally talk to him about local blogospheric efforts involving citizen journalism.

    He thinks they’re hilarious.

    Unfortunately, he’s a bit like gene wilder’s character in “Blazing Saddles”, and I don’t know if I can get him to sober up long enough to pick up a pen again. Our loss.

  3. doyleparty
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    “Local papers, like it or not, are becoming nothing more than vehicles through which to sell advertising. The tie to the community is growing more and more tenuous. Case in point, it’s been almost six months now since our ‘local’? paper closed it’s local office.”

    So the Courier’s office moved. What’s the difference? I’m pretty sure they are publishing the same corporate editorials as when the Courier was on Michigan Ave.

    There are still at least 3 regular reporters keeping the locals informed about what’s happening here, and often in more detail than what you might find in the “other” paper.

    If you’ve been reading the Courier and want to encourage more news instead of less, maybe a positive letter to the editor would help. Just a thought.

  4. Ol' E Cross
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Belleville? Is that closer to New Delhi or Calcutta?

  5. egpenet
    Posted May 16, 2007 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    With solid journalistic reporting in A2 and Ypsi …

    . There would have been a LOT less confusion about the David Ware shooting.

    . There would be much more clarity about the proposed CIT in Ypsi.

    . Hiring practices and salary offers at City Hall would be on a front burner … how the city spends money.

    . The EMU murder and cover-up would have been exposed months sooner.

    … and on.

    Journalism is timelines, bullet holes, blood splatters, tax repercussions at the market, who’s drawing full retirement pay and benefits, while holding a second job at the high school or the school board, while others can’t find work, it’s not resting until the “fall guy” at EMU is cleared and the real issues revealed, like why haven’t the locks been changed on campus … it’s sensory stuff, it’s nasty stuff … not a quick photo op and a superficial quote or two interview. Cripes!

    Perhaps, if we KNEW the truth about what is going on in government, higher ed, local schools … it WOULD make us crazy. I don’t think so. I think we’d understand and make thee changes. So, it comes down to maintaining control … top on down.

    When the voters approve a park millage and the powers that be take the money for something else and cut the park budget … there’s something you can sink your teeth into. Will there be repercussions? Will the A2 News follow that one up? Will “the people” DO anything about it? Perhaps.

    Probably not.

  6. mark
    Posted May 16, 2007 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    It wasn’t an attack on the Courier, DoyleParty. I’m sure the men and the women of the paper bust their asses to provide news, and I’m appreciative of their work. My point was that, across the board, local coverage is suffering. It’s a national problem. I wasn’t saying “The Courier sucks.” I was saying, the industry sucks… And, yes, I do see the fact that our local paper no longer has a local office as a significant indicator of this trend.

  7. paulg
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 4:10 am | Permalink

    This is hilarious, but in truth Pasadena seems an ideal city in which to try the outsourcing experiment. :) I lived there for about 10 years, and never got the sense that there was any “community”. Rather, there were a large number of microcommunities each doing their own thing. A reporter watching a videoconference from India would be just as in touch with the Pasadena community as any local.

    California cities seem to be like that. The stereotype that most Californians are from somewhere else seems true in my experience. It’s only when you venture into isolated towns in the desert or the mountains that you get any real sense of community.

    Also, I think you can blame competition from online news for the desperate condition of most newspapers (and the online news sites themselves). Nobody can make money because there are so many participants competing for a fixed number of readers. The web has eliminated the heavy costs involved in distributing news via physical sheets of paper, and has thus allowed anyone to provide news. So now, a news organization has either to cut costs or go out of business.

  8. doyleparty
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 8:49 am | Permalink


    I didn’t take your remarks to be an attack on the Courier, and I truly do not disagree with your general premise. I just thought you could have used a better example.

    Here’s what I mean:

    http://www.lsj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070424/NEWS03/704240366 (article: “Booth offers Lansing bureau workers buyouts”) (Note that sports reporters are not included in the buyout. Telling, isn’t it?)

    I know that newspapers are cutting staff. I know that changes in the newspaper world mean that the public is getting less information. The point I was trying to make is that, even with the cuts and the home office relocations, etc., there has still been some really good work being done locally.

    Recently, I had a conversation with a long-time Ypsi couple, very involved in the school district. They were angry about the Ann Arbor News’ coverage of the situation at Ypsi High. One said, “I have cancelled my subscription. They do nothing but sensationalize.”

    I was genuinely surprised by that, because the articles they were referring to were quite factual and showed a lot of depth. I told them that I thought the News showed a lot of restraint in that report, especially compared to the coverage of just a few years ago. To some people, news about other communities should be honest, “take no prisoners”?-type reporting, but when it comes to our own stories, they want the prettied-up version.

    Knowing that, are the papers actually “giving the people what they want”? by reducing or glossing over local coverage?

    I’d like to think that people would read more newspapers when they contain truthful, thought-provoking, relevant articles. I am probably too idealistic about this.

    You might think that I’m looking for an argument here. That’s not the case at all. I just think we need to find ways to encourage the press to provide more of what we want, and prove to them that we do want and appreciate it when we get it.


  9. Kate
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    There are many people here who obviously have some decided views of what they want in a local paper. So, what would you like to see? AND, do you think Ypsilanti could support its own daily paper?

  10. Posted May 26, 2007 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    journalist are really danger and dont care about any one or any thing and as he wrote about the politics and goverment of inda fantastic.

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