Hi, all. I’ve been away for awhile, for reasons I’ll pass along later. But a recent development got me sufficiently motivated to cast more words into cyberspace.
Seems The Orange County (CA) Register, one of my former papers and once one of the top dailies in America, has decided to outsource some of its editing duties to India. No, that’s not a city in Orange County.
Outsourcing is common in business these days, for things like health benefits management, call centers, and even tax returns and radiology. I can understand anyone’s need to control costs. And no one needs to be told more about how newspapers are crunched these days, with a slow economy curtailing advertising and more and more readers and advertisers heading online.
Still, I think the Register is making a mistake. Money is important, but quality and integrity can’t be bought. The Register is allowing people who may never have set foot in the U.S. or Orange County to control the quality of some of what its customers receive. Editors are the last line of defense before something is public. In theory, one of those editors at Mindworks Global Media in India could be handling a Vietnamese name, a Spanish street name, or acronyms such as OBPS and RBI in an Angels baseball story.
For instance, during my tenure at the Register, a reporter once wrote in a story about a secession movement that Hawaii could become “the first state to secede from the United States.” I, as a Southerner with strong knowledge of history and a lot of common sense, remembered the Civil War. Such an error could easily make it past editors not schooled in U.S. affairs.
This is not unprecedented. Two McClatchy-owned papers, the Miami Herald and the Sacramento Bee, reportedly have made such moves. Also, the Reuters wire service did such, according to the book “The World Is Flat,” by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. And Reuters had at least one dissatisfied customer, Forbes.
I concur with former Register colleague Michelle Rafter when she says that there seems to be opportunity for freelance writers and editors to set up such opportunities in the U.S. At least, U.S.-based workers have cultural knowledge on their side.