Cost-effective, yes, but is it good journalism?

28 May 2009

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Pasadena Now, a California-based website, tried to outsource local civic affairs and political coverage to India two years ago. Now, New Haven Advocate, an American alternative weekly covering local news and arts, has decided to check out the limits of “outsourced journalism”.

It posted ads on Craigslist in Bangalore and Bombay in March seeking journalists to put together one issue of news, arts, food, sex advice, the auto column, the horoscope.

“In just weeks, we had over 100 replies from Indian freelancers willing to do just about anything for us. Some were journalists with impressive credentials — The Guardian, BBC, The Times of India — and others were “content writers” or technical writers hungry for any assignment we could throw them….

“It wasn’t our intention for our little outsourcing experiment to put us out of a job. But it’s clear that in an age when publications are aggressively cutting costs and reducing staffs, India’s millions of wired English speakers may present an irresistible resource. If so, our Indian colleagues will have earned the last laugh.

“Call us old-school, but we think good, old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism is worth the price. Outsourcing could certainly fill pages, probably very cheaply, but what’s lost is the very essence of local newspapers: presence.”

Photograph: courtesy New Haven Advocate

Read about the experimentOutsource this!

The 10 women (and one man) who made it possible

Also read: Outsourced journalism suffers a welcome blow

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