Monday, December 1, 2008

All the news that's fit to outsource

IF, INDEED, bad news comes in threes, then I will offer these examples from the week end as supporting evidence: one is from the NY Times, one from the Plain Dealer, one from the Beacon Journal - which could only mean that I'm back to the sobering topic of the decline of America's newspapers. 

First, Maureen Dowd's Sunday column in the Times.  She  told of an enterprising lunatic  in California  with an outrageous plan to cover your latest church luncheon program or library booksale with an online surrogate "reporter"  based in India.   Yep, his name is James Macpherson and he boasts of creating "glocal" news from his home in Pasadena. That's a McNews word that fits his claim to pioneering  something he calls Internet-centric news from his Pasadena Now editorial (?) offices.  A former garment salesman who outsourced his stuff to Vietnam, Macpherson told Dowd  that he will outsource news with foreign-based stringers who are paid $7.50 per 1,000 words.  It will be a simple matter, he says, to provide those content providers with telephone numbers, email addresses and anything else they need  to report whatever is news in our city.  If newspapers claim they can't afford to pay yesterday's staff, then Macpherson says he will pay them the way shoes , made much more cheaply in China,  are imported into our shopping malls.  From where I sit, the only difference is that you can  try on the shoes before you buy them.  You never know what you might be getting from an unprofessional stringer halfway around a very troubled world.   Macpherson's goals sound like a hellish way to make a living.  But shrinkage is really what the traditional media are all about these days.  I can hear a lot of copycats already  bestirring themselves into gasping "Yeah, Yeah! I can do it, too!" You heard it here second.  

In another piece, PD columnist  Elizabeth Sullivan writes with intelligence and grace about the death of her journalist mother while lamenting the dismantling of today's newspapers.  Sullivan notes that the PD is in the process  of expanding projected layoffs in the newsroom from 38 to 50.  She writes:

"That's 50 of my friends. Fifty people who work hard every day to deliver something meaningful, contextual, important and unique to hundreds of thousands of readers who don't have the time, skills or inclination to do the digging themselves."  (The layoffs are expected to be announced this week and you can imagine the tension as the straws are drawn.)  Sullivan is hoping to delay the inevitable but newspaper ownership today will hear none of it.  It has been part of the problem, retreating meekly and greedily in the face of heavy competition from the Internet.  To what end?  Profit?  Survival?  So far, the front offices have yet to come up with an answer other than to lend a hand to their eventual demise with less quality, less competence and less commitment to the things that newspapers are supposed to do best. 

Finally, with the Cleveland Cavaliers showing championship  potential, Sunday's BJ reported the game just up the road from Akron with the Associated Press rather than its own beat reporter.  Nothing more to add about that. On the other hand, it may be a rung or two higher than game coverage from that person in India at $7.50 per.  


Anonymous said...

Abe: Re: ABJ not sending a writer to the Cavs game ``up the road''....Milwaukee is some 457 miles away.

Grumpy Abe said...

Oops. I thought it was a home game. Still, the result was the same -AP vs beat reporter. Sorry about those missing 457 miles...and one missing reporter. .