Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Now, media goes the offshoring way

City reporting jobs travel from US to India

There is hardly anything odd about American IT firms moving back-office jobs to low-cost destinations like India, but a California daily is recruiting journalists here to report what's happening 12,841 km away in Pasadena.

"We seek a newspaper journalist based in India to report on the city government and political scene of Pasadena, California, USA," said a job advertisement posted on the Internet last week.

While the industry has already seen some editorial jobs being outsourced to India, the latest one is sure to raise eyebrows, as reporting, that too on issues like city government and politics, is something that requires first-hand account and understanding of the local issues, said an industry expert.

However, the daily Pasadena Now is confident the arrangement will work.

"We do not believe that geographic distance between India and California will present unsurmountable problems, and that working together with you will result in your development of a keen working knowledge of this City's affairs. This will result in accurate and authoritative News reports," Pasadena Now's Publisher James Macpherson said in the job posting.

"Due to California's public access laws, virtually all relevant government documents and meetings are available on the Internet," MacPherson said.

In addition, the publication's staff in Pasadena would record and photograph all the required meetings and interviews and send them to India through e-mail.

"We propose to work closely with you to direct you to the issues, research, and references in order for you to carefully watch, analyse, and report upon the city's affairs," said the job posting.

According to the Associated Press, Pasadena Now has already hired two journalists at a combined annual cost of $ 20,800 within two days of the job posting.

Pasadena Now said that it would pay the journalists a 40 hour per week salary and recompense them for international telephone calls, while adding that the compensation would be commensurate with professional journalism pay levels for full-time employment of "Lead Reporters." The organisation is seeking one or two 500-word articles each day, Monday through Friday, and two weekly in-depth special reports focused on the City Council's weekly Council Meeting.

The City Council is Pasadena's governing body and meets every Monday night and webcast of the meetings are available on the Internet.

The articles would be published on the two-year-old website of Pasadena Now.

The media industry outsourcing to India has so far been limited to editing and writing news reports based on press releases.

Leading international news agency Reuters, as well as its current suitor Thomson Corporation, are already operating their captive units in India, where journalists have been hired for editing and rewriting jobs.

Reuters' Bangalore operation is estimated to have more than 1,000 employees, including about 100 reporters and editors, who churn out news briefs, analyst ratings changes, earnings tables, economic polling data and other data products for the company's subscribers.

A recent decision by the Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times, to outsource editorial jobs to India has agitated the unions there. PTI