Outsourcing journalism

Interesting thoughts from Poynter Institute and from Maria Trombly’s blog from the Society of Professional Journalists.


Dan Kubiske, chair of the SPJ’s International Journalism Committee, suggested that I blog about my experiences running a bureau out here in Shanghai, so this is it.

Some background — I came to China three years ago, to run the China bureau for Securities Industry News (a weekly New York City financial newspaper). The work has since expanded to include several other SourceMedia publications, including CardLine Asia-Pacific, where my staff and I cover payments throughout the entire Asian region.

It started out as a one-man bureau run out of my apartment in downtown Shanghai. Last year, we rented an office not too far away (okay, two blocks — I’ve got a great commute), and we moved over. I was running out of space to put desks, and it very uncomfortable to get up in the middle of the day (after being up all night dealing with US-based editors and sources) in your pajamas to find your staff looking at you in all your bed-head glory — bad enough — but then if they’ve got investment bankers in for interviews — oh, very embarrassing.

This is not new. This has been happening ever since they invented telecommunications. But what’s interesting here is that the Western world is increasingly tapping Eastern talent. Indian, Chinese, Filipino, and other Asian journalists capable of doing journalism in English are now being hired to do journalism for bigger media firms. I know of several people  doing this from the Philippines. And their bosses are in other countries.

I also remember a conversation with author Dr. Stephen Quinn last weekend. (He’s my professor in convergent journalism). He told me there was a big demand for editors abroad. But the great thing is, you don’t have to move out. You can stay in your comfortable room/home and edit raw copies of correspondents or reporters sent in every day to your e-mail box. While this will pose challenges in coordination and fact-checking, especially for breaking stories. But for features and special reports, outsourcing journalism is one way to address the increasing demand for editors worldwide.

Read this essay by Fons Tuinstra on Nieman Reports. It will show you a familiar story on the impact of the Internet on foreign correspondents for newswires. But this is also connected to the growing phenomenon of outsourcing journalism. As the Poynter Institute column points out:

In the ongoing debate over the future of foreign correspondents, this is one more option to consider. However, it’s worth asking: Does this kind of outsourcing represent a threat or an opportunity — or both — to journalists in western nations?

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Erwin Oliva

Putting a dent on the universe one day at a time