prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Outsourcing the News

Posted by prof e on July 2, 2008

Of all the professions that you would think would be safe from the trends towards outsourcing, newspaper journalism would be high on everyone’s list. But you may want to reconsider. Listen to this story from NRP’s Morning Edition (click on Listen Now). Seems that not only is ad design headed for points on the other side of the planet. Business Week reported that the Orange County Register is outsourcing copy editing and layout. Even news coverage is fair game. News about the Pasadena City Council was outsourced as reported in the LA Times. Remember Shift Happens?

Here’s a video version of Shift Happens-


4 Responses to “Outsourcing the News”

  1. Alex Timmons said

    [Of all the professions that you would think would be safe from the trends towards outsourcing, newspaper journalism would be high on everyone’s list. But you may want to reconsider.]

    Or maybe some should just wake the hell up. I’m not clear why anyone would assume any aspect of journalism is safe from outsourcing. It already happens on a smaller and LOCAL scale. And don’t try to hit me with the national pride –journalism is the 4th estate of the American people– sort of crap. That’s an illusion, and has been for quite some time.

    If I’m not mistaken, every semester local (Pueblo) and statewide Newspaper editors and journalists visit the newswriting and feature writing classrooms right here on the CSU-Pueblo campus,or at least they visited mine during a couple of semesters in newswriting and feature writing. To be honest, because I have such a distaste for the profession of journalism and had dropped the course once before, my lazy behind had the displeasure of sitting twice through a visit from these folks .

    The editor from the Chieftain, I think his name was Steve, who I found to be a blindly overconfident jerk, flatly stated to the whole class that the Chieftain doesn’t typically look at CSU-Pueblo journalism grads because they can’t write. He straight up announced that they look elswhere(outside of Pueblo for journalist candidates) This came after a speil from some of the older men in the group who stood in front of the class and told us that good writers know how to think well and are basically more cognitively complex than the average schmoe(it’s kinda fun to see old men confident in their dillusions).

    The group spoke to the class for about ten or fifteen minutes then opened up the discussion to the floor. Unstimulated and possibly offended like I was, virtually no one had any questions. Aside from the mundane, “how much money did you make when you first started out?” kind of question, few people showed any interest in the visitors.

    The editor from the Chieftain, Steve?, showed up for both of the visits I witnessed, and said the same exact thing both times. I’d read some crap he wrote a week earlier and had him pegged as a blowhard, but in the second group I saw, there was also a young guy who had just graduated from CSU-P and had been snatched up by the Chieftain because he’d already done some internship work for the Pueblo rag and the university paper. Steve used the young guy to draw a contrast to the typical comm student at CSU-P. He made no qualms about telling the class how unusual of a find the young guy was, and on that note I entirely agreed. The kid was very bright and it was plainly apparent that he had ‘the gift.’

    Now I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t write, I enjoy oration and reciprocal discourse far more than the written word. Yes, I understand that the two usually work hand-in-hand but you english syntax snobs out there can bite me.

    What amazed me the most about the time I spent in the journalism courses at CSU was the level of apathy and disdain exhibited by the students. I personally enjoy reading and discussing material with others who are unafraid of honest dialogue, but I found most of the students were simply incapable of dealing with ambiguity, nuance, or caveat.

    Nearing the final weeks of the course, I stopped in to speak with the professor regarding a rewrite for one of my papers. I had the usuall problems with the paper. I was too lazy to learn the AP style requirements, and I always struggled with writing my own analyses instead of simply reproducing the facts. In truth, I was sure to fail the course as I was barely skating by with a low C. It was only due to the kindness of the professor that I was allowed to submit rewrites. The syllabus only allowed for something like one or two rewrites I think, but I was able to submit rewrites for ALL of the assignments. As it turns out, the day I met with the professor I noticed her to be visibly distraught — on the verge of tears even. I clumsily asked if everything was alright. It was then that I learned that the majority of the class was barely passing. The professor felt so guilty that everybody was allowed to submit rewrites, for every assigment, and after all the errors were clearly noted in red ink. By all rights, I should have failed the course, maybe others should have too.

    What happened in this situation is that through an audacious form of group psychology, the professor was bullied into passing a bunch of ignorant seat warmers. It would be easy to blame the professor for being too timid, and it would be easy to take the moral high ground and say that the decision to fail a bunch of losers should have been made. But what it really comes down to is job security. We Americans haven’t earned any. We are stupid, as Steve the editor suggests. Newspapers are entirley justified in outsourcing decisions. In fact, they’d be stupid not to. This holds true for just about any industry where millions of Americans foolishy thought they could perform the same monotonous duties, year in and year out, at the same inadequate level of efficiency, for an entire career.

  2. Alex Timmons said

    The best solution or explanation of a problem is often the simplest one. Let’s look at the news industry in general terms, and on an heirarchical scale of production with #1 being the lowest, #4 being the highest:

    1.)The Routine producer i.e. factory/assembly line workers
    2.)Key Punch operator i.e. data entry/data transfer workers
    3.)The Routine Manager i.e. process supervisors/quality control
    4.)The Analyst i.e. The diagnosticians/Problem solvers

    Of course this is a rough approximation of the overall system, but the idea is clear.

    Level one consists of printing press workers for print news and the broadcast technicians/camera operators for studios. Declines in readership/viewership/listenership coupled with advances in technology eliminate reduncy and the need for warm bodies and physical labor. The fact that people can read newspapers online, and the fact that cameras and radio stations can be computer automated says it all,.

    Level two, the key punch operator position, comprises the oldschool beat journalists/copy editors/typsetters/print formatters and what have you. Journalists are only expected to compile basic data and the technicians arrange it for mass dissemination. The temptation is to give journalists credit for searching out important stories while nobly and heroicly digging for the truth. But the rampant re-emergence of PR spin and yellow journalism, and considering were in full sway of the internet age, where all journalists need to do is sit in the office and await faxes and emails and VNR’s, chops the legs of that argument. Huge payrolls for beat journalists no longer makes good business sense. And any monkey can compile and arrange data.

    Ahh, my favorite and 3rd level, the managing editor, the quality control schmuck, Steve. This man anwers directly to the owner, who is not the Analyst as one might imagine. This man, the routine manager then prosecutes the agenda of the owner. This guy claims to know how to think, knows what is important to the end users, and believes fervently in his own authority.

    Now, the prompting blog post for my reply poses the question of the virtue or tragedy of outsourcing within the context of the news industry. But it should be painfully clear that we’re merely witnessing the natural obsolescence of an innefficient industry. You can liken it to what is presently taking place within the American automotive industry if your that dense and need a direct example, but what people like Steve have failed to understand is that they are no longer needed, no longer efficient. The news industry was only ever a tool for the analyst–the people. The fatal mistake of Steve’s kind is that Analysts are not beholdant to his dillusion of authoriity, nor his sentimentalities toward his own value to the American public.

    Analysts are people possesed of the responsibility to self educate and have silently reclaimed the tools of news media through the internet, which was for a time, the strict domain of newsies. An no, Analysts are not the millions of inane bloggers who scream conspiracy at every turn.

    In fairness, the marketplace for news has been flooded with a sea of voices no more qualified to parse information than the apt monkeys of the newsroom, and this has become the argument of those editors and news personalities who cling to life preservers in a market sea that is flowing faster than they can tread water. In essence, hardcore news journalists and the average blogger are coming to terms with themselves as they look in a mirror, and only the smartest people among us truly know how to harness the power of the new media.

    Outsourcing is about capitalsim and free market efficacy, and is irreverent to the purported nobility of a given industry.

  3. Lashanaye James said

    I think it’s really ironic that I clicked on this blog because it relates to what I talked about in my paper. But I think that video points out all facts yet no one truly wants the truth. While watching this short clip I noticed that within them talking myspace, youtube, etc., I was apart of one of those numbers. Something that really surprised me was that in the beginning it stated that 70% of 4 year old children have used a computer. What happened to ready a book to a child or letting them attempt to read it to you. I understand we are surrounded by technology but I think that parents have total control of children while they are small. Then it also stated that 1 out of 8 couples married in 2005 but met online. What happend to going out on dates, oppose to meeting someone online. I’m not saying that meeting someone online is a bad thing I just think when you meet someone online you don’t truly know how that person is, and you’re not using any sort of verbal communication.

  4. Deherrera Stephanie said

    I thought this blog was really interesting. I learned things and thought of things that i probably never would of imagined to come across. It pointed out a lot of stuff that I never really took into consideration. This especially amazed me becasue of the fact that it’s been 6 years since this was posted and everything mentioned is probably ten times the numbers of the statistics. I found the whole couples meeting over the internet a bit disturbing i think that is a wrong way to meet someone. What ever happened to going out and meeting someone not having cell phones to call them or text them and having to go to one another to talk or set a time to meet up? Or the whole myspace becoming so big and how everyone wants to be a part of it. I think it’s crazy how things changed because now it’s all about facebook instead of myspace. I found this blog very interesting and really has me thinking about a lot of things.

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