Newspapers, India and outsourcing

Well, maybe the death of newspapers isn’t being over-stated. I was thinking about this while circling Hilton Head on foot this morning. Did you ever call the customer service number of a U.S. company and talk to someone who, well, you figured wasn’t living in Iowa? Or anywhere else where Budweiser is still considered the Great American Lager. I have. And it hasn’t always been that pleasant.

And I recognize that we live in a global economy. But folks — here’s one that makes me gulp (and snicker) a little.

The Orange County Register in California, according to an Associated Press story printed in Business Week online, is going to outsource some of its copy editing and page layout work to a company in India, Mindworks Global Media, on a one-month trial basis.

“This is a small-scale test, which will not touch our local reporting or decision-making. Our own editors will oversee this work,” Fabris [John Fabris, deputy editor, Orange County Register] said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “In a time of rapid change at newspapers, we are exploring many ways to work efficiently while maintaining quality and improving local coverage.”

The Orange County Register isn’t the first newspaper to outsource jobs; it won’t be the last. And something tells me this isn’t a quality-of-work issue — but a cost-reduction plan. If employees at U.S. newspapers have to compete on a cost basis with workers in India and elsewhere — well, mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be copy editors. Here’s from the AP story:

Other newspapers also have outsourced some work to India. Mindworks began copyediting and design of a weekly community news section and other special advertising sections at The Miami Herald in January. A month earlier, the Sacramento Bee, also owned by the McClatchy Co., said it would outsource some of its advertising production work to India.

Guess newspapers are a business after all. When I was a journalism student at Kent State in the late 60s that was something never discussed in class or elsewhere. In fact, many soon-to-be-journalists were proud of the fact that they weren’t going to work in business. I also believe that what I’ll call an anti-business bias carried over into news coverage — and that affected the relationships between many reporters, editors and PR people. But I digress.

Hope that view has changed today — in the classrooms and in the newsrooms.

For those who still think that newspapers — and journalism in general — isn’t a business, this Bud’s for you.

And for those like me believe that a financially strong, independent news media — staffed by journalists with skills and ethics — are essential to our nation — well, I guess I’ll grab a 12-pack of Beck’s and head for the beach.

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2 responses to “Newspapers, India and outsourcing

  1. Shelley Prisco

    All of this outsourcing is enough to want to make anyone go for a long beer holiday (I personally hate beer). I really feel sorry for the JMC graduates coming out of school (at any university) now. The market was tight when I graduated in 2003, and it looks worse now in 2008. After reading about this newspaper outsourcing, the job search in the journalism/communications field could become impossible. I still love the fields of magazine journalism and public relations, but I’m glad I’m in school developing another skill to go along with what learned in my bachelor’s degree. Hail the physical therapy field!!! Five years ago, I never thought I would say this. At least there will be opportunities for me to write in physical therapy. The JMC education I got will never be lost. 🙂

  2. Shelley,

    Without question it is a tough time for journalists — whether in the first or last days of their careers. Fortunately the job market for PRKent grads has remained good. And the demands on new graduates in terms of skills these days are tremendous.

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