Outsourced! Jim Is Replaced by a Writer in India

This article isn't actually about the Tata Nano. (Photo: High Contrast [CC BY 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons)

I have, for more than 20 years, written a weekly auto column for the New Mass Media chain of newspapers in New England. I haven’t missed a deadline in all that time.

Until now.

The Chicago Tribune, which owns the alternative newspaper chain, has declared bankruptcy, and that’s put a pinch on everything. My job writing the column this week was “outsourced” to India by the cost-cutters. Instead of my usual trenchant observations about green cars, Mandira Srivastava from Hyderabad (editor-coordinator at Vadamali Media and a writer for www.indiaschoolnews.com) wrote an interesting story on the ultra-cheap Tata Nano. “Buying a car has always been a part of the great Indian dream and the ultimate goal for teenagers,” she writes. The Nano starts at only $2,113.

Maybe if they weren’t saving a few bucks, I could have written about the Tesla Roadster recall and what it all means.

Actually, the outsourcing thing—which covers almost every story in the paper, from the news stories to the restaurant review—was some kind of statement by the New Haven Advocate’s editors. Here’s what they said:

“Vanishing revenues have put the newspaper industry in a death spiral and many papers long ago outsourced other functions (like IT support centers and telemarketing) to India. We devised this issue as an experiment on what outsourced news might look like,” the editors wrote.

“We posted ads on Craigslist in Bangalore and Mumbai back in March seeking journalists to write this issue of our paper — news, arts, food, sex advice, the auto column, the horoscope, the whole pakora. In just weeks, we had over 100 replies from Indian freelancers willing to do just about anything for us.”

It’s not always a one-time trial. California’s Pasadena Now actually outsourced its city hall coverage to Indian journalists, According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S.-based owners “transmit press releases, PDF files and reports to their offshore crew, which also watches City Council and school board meetings via streaming video. The Indians produce articles and headlines, earning $7 for every 1,000 words. (By way of comparison, guest opinion writers in the Los Angeles Times get at least $250 for 600 words.)”

And there’s more: In 2004, venerable British news agency Reuters announced it would outsource some Wall Street work to a bureau in Bangalore. Reuters Editor in Chief David Schlesinger said at the time, “Now we can send our New York journalists out to do more interesting stories. This is good for our business and good for journalism.”

Actually, maybe my writing about this will give my publishers here at MNN some bright ideas. Please don’t outsource me! I’ll write more! And faster! I’ll take a pay cut!