Sweetheart, get me rewrite… in Bangalore

Roy Greenslade reports that a New Zealand newspaper company, APN News & Media, is outsourcing 70 sub-editing and design jobs. I’ve been wondering for years why Gannett, say, isn’t doing this: at least its national, business, sports, and entertainment page editing can be outsourced. Oh, I know, you’ll say that people elsewhere don’t understand these markets. But the truth is that most editors I know moved into their markets and had to learn them anyway. So why not have a gigantic national copy desk (boy, would that be a fun room) and a huge national design and production desk? For that matter, why not outsource editing to the Associated Press? When I was Sunday editor of the New York Daily News, I tried hard to get Tribune Media to take over every bit of work in producing our TV listings pages, for a starter; this would have freed up headcount to do more productive things (like reporting). I’ve been arguing for sometime that the process of finding efficiencies and reorganizing newsrooms around what really matters is healthy, necessary, and long overdue. It’s about boiling a newspaper down to its essence, its true value. And what is that value? Reporting.

  • FYI: Bangalore is now Benglauru

  • that should be bengaluru

  • Err, no Jeff. Quality is a newspaper’s true essence and most reporters can’t write for shit. Outsourcing subediting to a different city is one thing, a different city in a different country with a different time zone is a different matter entirely. I’m sure you don’t need me to explain why.

    I’m not speaking as a defender of ‘old’ media – I left the industry a few years ago – but as someone who at least has a basic understanding of what makes a good newspaper. It’s a newsroom working in harmony. With the emphasis on room.

  • The whole idea smacks of one of those management brainwaves that may end up doing irreversible damage to the publications. First, APN in New Zealand already uses the company in question to produce TV listings, an error-prone process according to NZ Herald journalists.

    Said company is owned by Australian Associated Press, which has as its biggest share holders APN’s two largest competitors. If that doesn’t make the notion bizarre enough for you, it should be noted that the company to be in charge of sub-editing and layout has no experience of doing so for the news and features sections of dailies, weeklies and monthly magazines. In fact, the company hasn’t even set up the operation yet.

    It’d be one thing if there was a proven track record that showed the outsourcing works, but presently there’s nothing at all. Seems like a risky move then.

  • Or, here’s an idea: Outsource it to a custom publishing company. (Disclosure: I’ve been an outsource provider of all that publishing stuff for two decades. We let companies/associations and, yes, other publishers, focus on what they do best — and we handle the rest.)

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  • A MSM reporter/editor copyedited a blog entry of mine the other day. I was grateful for his charity work/(unexpected) input as I often need a good stiff edit. Bloggers could outsource their copy editing requirements to MSM old timers. A lot of ’em will need work soon. Beats flipping burgers I suppose.

  • Tom

    Tangentially related perhaps. I work for very large British law firm in London that routinely emails proofreading work to an Indian firm (“Office Tiger”) in Chennai. It’s reached the stage where a New York lawyer might send her draft to us in London when going home, and if we’re too busy to process it then we can forward it to India instead. When the US lawyer gets back to her desk the next morning the document is waiting for her, and she doesn’t care where it was amended. A good example of globalisation.

    (One problem that we did have was that it was their company policy for them to adopt Western names when talking to us for some reason: “Steve” instead of Firoze, “Kathy” instead of Ranitha – but we kept sniggering at them and they’ve stopped doing that.)

    One previous experience I had was when the Microsoft Encarta was adapted for the European markets. The British wanted to put Bullfighting into the Sports section, the Spanish insisted it went into the Performing Arts section.

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  • “For that matter, why not outsource editing to the Associated Press?”
    You trust AP over your own staff? Wow, your staff must have …
    “I treid hard to get Tribune Media… ”
    Oh. I see.

  • Why not try Amazon’s Mechanical Turk for subbing?


    That is joke (!). I dont think the MT is yet up to subbing, but there are ‘human’ elements in the design process for digital newspapers and magazines that are very hard to automate. We have considered subcontracting a set of tasks to the Mechanical Turk. Exact Editions has a very largely automated way of enhancing and converting PDFs to a database. For example, we have a need to decide for arbitrary PDF files (and they can be very arbitrary) *which* page is their table of contents. This might be especially difficult for languages that we dont speak. So what better system to use than the Mechanical Turk. When we are grappling with too many editions and too many languages we will be sorely tempted to do this….

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  • Wait until the rest of the US media corporations get ahold of that idea. Is there room and sufficient security for all the chaos with a sudden influx of canned journalists at the soup kitchens and flop houses?