Saturday, June 23, 2007

Is there anything they can't outsource?

Source: Asiamedia

Is there anything out there that can't be outsourced to a cheaper part of the world? Probably, but reporting on city council meetings for the local news "paper" is not one of them. Online community news site Pasadena Now (, in California, found this out last month when it hired two reporters in India to cover the weekly council meeting.

The only problem is, the response to the decision was so heated that the editor has been too busy fielding media enquiries to train the new staff. There was a mixed reaction to the story, with the predictable backlash but also comments that it's something people better get used to.

The thinking behind the move was that the time difference allowed for the Indian reporters to sit through the evening council meeting and write up a report in time for Pasadena Now's readers first thing in the morning. As these meetings could drag on well into the night, it made sense. And needless to say the Indian writers would be a lot cheaper than having a US journalist sit through the meeting and then stay up another hour or so to write it up.

Many people questioned whether the quality of reporting would suffer if the writer was not physically present, suggesting they would not get reactions or comments from other sources. Perhaps, but it's still valuable to get a record of the proceedings for an early morning news piece, which can then be updated throughout the day by the local reporters who can "add value" to the story.

It's also not such a novel idea, either -- Reuters has been using Indian reporters to do some of the "grunt" reporting for a few years now, while headlines and copy editing for the South China Morning Post gets done by cheaper editors right here in the same building that produces the Bangkok Post.

The press pack, the security risk that we are, was shunted off into a special media room where they had a couple of large screens set up to relay what was happening in the main hall. The strange thing was that it was more convenient to sit and take notes this way -- coffee supply on tap, fellow journalists to chat with without annoying the delegates and easy access to the exit once you had the story.

Increasingly these days there are a lot of major events, particularly technology pow-wows, that are streamed live over the web. So if you were a budding reporter, blogger or Indian looking for overseas work, you could start to tune in and make a name for yourself by churning out reports quicker and better than everyone else. A young guy by the name of Charles Dickens made his name by being able to attend court hearings and churning out a story quickly and accurately, and who knows, if he was around today he might do the same from webcasts to get his start.