Friday, May 11, 2007

Local news, outsourced?

Is local news still local if it's covered by someone on a different continent?

According to an article in the L.A. Times, editor and publisher of the Pasadena Now Web site hired two reporters last weekend to cover the Pasadena City Council. One lives in Mumbai and the other works out of Bangalore.

Thanks to technology, the reporters can view the council meeting via the web from 9,000 miles away. (On a side note, these two reporters get paid between $7,200 and $12,000 a year.)

City council meetings are probably the least interesting events to cover, so snaps for any reporter who can get out of it. But journalistically speaking, this move is probably not the most ethical or effective. Can you get reactions and comments from overseas-- especially when India is 12.5 hours ahead of California time.

It's not that the reporters aren't qualified for the job-- supposedly one of the Indian presshounds is a graduate of the Berkeley j-school

This slightly reminds me of the Jayson Blair affair. One of Blair's many problems was the fact that he started to choose details from photographs to create the impression he had been somewhere or seen someone.

Speaking to our econ class last quarter, a Reuters Reporter alerted us to Reuter's outsourcing practices. Reuters runs a news bureau in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, where it reports on company earnings-- even the businesses based in the U.S. The wire service also relocated lots of jobs to Singapore in 2004.

Another example is with Financial Times. The paper outsourced six intro-level editorial jobs to the Phillipines in March. The paper laid off 30 jobs in the past few months and saw the outsourcing as an attempt to fill the gap.

Journalism jobs are already being cut-- now they're being sent overseas. It's not excatly comforting, as an aspiring journalist, to keep seeing how journalistic integrity is being jeapardized by cost-cutting measures.

Outsourcing is a bold move by media outlets, but I think that this should definately raise some red flags.


At Saturday, May 12, 2007, Blogger MK said...

How can this be? Does this Pasadena News Now acknowledge that the reporters covering the council meetings are not actually there?! Isn't that why reporters get in trouble - for claiming to be somewhere they are not?? In Detroit a few years ago, columnist Mitch Albom wrote something about the Final Four. Not a big deal until it was revealed he wasn't at the Final Four and he fabricated some quotes. Most people thought he should be fired, but his 10 or so Sportswriter of the Year awards saved his scalp. So journalistic principles are being violated by this outsourcing but what about the jobs?! Would it be ethical for me to watch Japanese baseball games over the Internet and then write for a Japanese Web site? Even if I acknowledged that I wasn't there, it would be unethical. I just don't even know what to think but my first impressions is that this is a bad bad development

At Saturday, May 12, 2007, Blogger MW said...

Surreal. The Pasadena story is like a Second City sketch come to life.

Also, it's pretty sad how most reporters often start at pretty modest salaries, and yet they're STILL losing out to outsourcing.

At Sunday, May 13, 2007, Blogger AJS said...

I absolutely agree with MK. Plus, watching something on a webcast is not the same as being there. You miss nuance, you miss emotion, you miss interaction -- plus you also miss anything not shown on the webcast (like two city councillors talking on the side). The paper claims an interview is still a phone call away, but what about getting reaction after a particularly passionate meeting? What about following the beat between meetings? I think this is absolutely absurd and they should be ashamed.


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