Outsourcing journalism to cut costs

Outsourcing to reduce labour costs has caught on in many industries, and it’s happening in journalism too.

The latest example is pasadenanow.com, where editor and publisher James Macpherson is recruiting a journalist based in India to cover local politics in California. The reporter will be expected to watch council meetings online and conduct interviews by phone or email.

Editor & Publisher reports that some people find the idea appalling and ill-advised:

“Nobody in their right mind would trust the reporting of people who not only don’t know the institutions but aren’t even there to witness the events and nuances,” said Bryce Nelson, a University of Southern California journalism professor and Pasadena resident. “This is a truly sad picture of what American journalism could become.”

It is a shaky business proposition as well, said Uday Karmarkar, a UCLA professor of technology and strategy who outsources copy editing and graphics work to Indian businesses. If the goal is sophisticated reporting, he said, Macpherson could end up spending more time editing than the labor savings are worth.

But Macpherson isn’t the only one cutting costs through outsourcing.

The editors who run US news website reuters.com and British site reuters.co.uk sit at desks in Toronto, where Reuters takes advantage of lower pay rates for Canadian journalists.

And New Zealand Herald publisher APN plans to have most of its newspaper pages, for the Herald and smaller papers around the country, edited by another company. Although the work will still be done in New Zealand (and the contracting company will have to set up a new operation to do it), it is expected to cost less than having the work done in-house. About 70 APN staff will lose their jobs.

>> More on outsourcing journalism jobs to India and to China

6 replies on “Outsourcing journalism to cut costs”

  1. We’re a Pasadena-based blog that covers local politics, so this story was of particular interest. Our comments, which got picked up by LA Observed and a number of other blogs, can be found here:


    In brief, while there’s a helluva lot you can do online, quality local journalism, beyond just summarizing city council meetings and parroting the local news headlines, is something that almost certainly can’t be done from a different continent. Of course, we appreciate your thoughts.

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