Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Can You Outsource Local Journalism?

The New Haven Advocate tried, as reported in the New York Times, "Made in India, but Published in New Haven" by Peter Applebome.

The Indian freelancers were paid the same rates that writers of the Advocate, an alternative weekly, get. According to Applebome, the Advocate wasn't the first to experiment this way:
"an online publication in Pasadena, Calif., fired its seven staff members and replaced them with workers from India using Webcams and e-mail at $7.50 per thousand words."

This says something right there about the state of freelance writing as a business in the U.S.

The verdict on the Advocate's experiment? According to Applebome, "Most of it (the writing) was pretty good. Sure there were some clunky sentences and things lost in translation — and it works a lot better for, say, features on music than looking for municipal corruption."

The article concludes with an interesting point: According to Paul Bass, editor of an online nonprofit competitor, New Haven Independent, the outsourcing experiment reminded him "that so much of American journalism these days actually can be done from a desk in Mumbai, and that the threat facing most American newspapers isn’t necessarily outsourcing or even the new frontier of the Internet. It’s dull, stodgy products that have been downsized and bled dry by corporate owners. If what you do can be done, however imperfectly, from Mumbai, he said, then maybe you need to go back to Square One."

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