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Outsourcing Journalism

[ 51 ] July 6, 2016 |

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You may have heard that the International Business Times has laid off a whole bunch of editors and reporters.

Is IBT cutting back? Is it in trouble? No, of course not. It just figured it could outsource most of it to India.

This is basically the future of the entire American middle class unless keeping Americans employed in dignified jobs becomes a national priority. In conclusion,

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  1. AMK says:

    Who the fuck reads the IBT, whatever it is? They might well be in enough trouble that they can only afford to pay inevitably subpar (for American readers) Indian writers to post blurbs in between the clickbait.

    News is not a great outsourcing example because the entire business is shrinking and fragmenting, everywhere.

  2. MPAVictoria says:

    Think that right wing columnists will finally start to care about this issues when their jobs are outsourced?

    • NonyNony says:

      Journalists and editors are being outsourced. Wingnut welfare recipients will probably be okay because they are neither of these things.

      • CrunchyFrog says:

        True. But, OTOH, can there be any writing that is more easily duplicated without any skill or thought than a typical wingnut column from, say, Town Hall or Breitbart? I can’t think of any.

        Heck, they can do like they do with the internet troll bots that were developed for the Pentagon and picked up by the right wing. Create an account with a stock photo of a young, attractive-but-not-too-attractive woman and add a plausible name and a few elements in the profile to make it look like this is a real person, then start posting misogynous, racist bile. Well, they can create similar “columnist” profiles and have them written by formula ghost writers in Kazakastan or some other place owned and operated by a US Energy Company-backed dictatorship where they can legally sentence the ghost writer to death if the ghost writer tries to subvert the message he/she is supposed to be writing into the column.

        During the internet years the philosophy of wingnut welfare was to spread a lot of money around and let the best writers (the ones who get the biggest audience) grow naturally. That certainly was an era of a lot of inventiveness and creativity. But these days wingnut writing is highly formulaic, so outsourcing does seem a perfect fit.

        • J. Otto Pohl says:

          Kazakhstan is a bad example. It is a dictatorship and has a lot of oil and gas. But, Nazerbayev is not a US puppet. Kazakhstan’s foreign policy was closely allied with Russia’s until the invasion of Crimea. Since then Kazakhstan has shown a considerable amount of independence. However, differences with Russia over events in Ukraine have not moved Kazakhstan into the US camp. The presence of US oil companies in Kazakhstan doesn’t change this. Chevron Oil provided the MPLA in Angola with all the money to pay for the upkeep of Cuban soldiers fighting against UNITA and the SADF. Their presence did nothing to diminish the MPLA’s alliance with the USSR and Cuba and their hostility to the US.

      • ThrottleJockey says:

        There has to be another Dinesh D’souza in India….Unfortunately…

  3. Pseudonym says:

    Did I miss the announcement that today was James McMurtry day on LGM? I’ve never heard of him before but am enjoying his music at the moment.

  4. manual says:

    I believe they call this chickens coming home to roost

  5. Doug Gardner says:

    I am ashamed to say that when I see a 3-letter abbreviation beginning with “IB”, my mind wants the last letter to be “S”. Perhaps I’ve read too much about D. Trump lately.

  6. Vance Maverick says:

    I like how the banner at the back of the room reads “Always Be Closing.” For certain values of the word “like”.

    • Pseudonym says:

      Yeah. I’ve been wondering where LGM gets its photos for these posts, but I’d assume this one was chosen for the banner, since it appears to be an office in the Philippines rather than Bangalore.

  7. CrunchyFrog says:

    I had the misfortune of working with a client last year who has decided to recreate the full Indian off-shore software development experience in the silicon valley. Very successful company – but NOT in high tech – so the execs were sold a bill of goods by their chief technologist, an Indian immigrant who is a great talker.

    Well it worked. The place looks just like the photos, except the workspaces were even smaller except for the large offices the Director-level managers had. I’m told by many of the folks I worked with who came out of the offshore Indian software development industry that they’d recreated the situation exactly – including the utter chaos, the constant shouting and blaming, the preening and positioning, the unnecessary daily meetings in which the Directors all competed with each other to show off their technical prowess and insult the low-life engineers who reported to them, the countless hours – amounting in total to many person-years of effort – wasted because obvious problems were not addressed in advance so that they were in a constant crisis mode, and of course the massive turnover below the Director level.

    In short, the output of these offshore places is often really horrible. This gets hidden on the accounting books in many ways – for example your on-shore people may spend most of their time fixing the problems caused by offshore – but that time is charged to on-shore making them look less efficient. However, in some industries you just can not hide the fact that the off-shore shop does shitty work. This is why so many customer call centers have moved back on-shore in recent years. Century Stink, for example used to route me to someone in Bangladesh reading from a script and of course the problem would never get solved. Now I get someone in Utah who actually uses the same technology at home and is a skilled problem-solver.

    That may happen at IBT, too, if the output sucks. Keep in mind most of the people they’ll hire will have zero experience with the world they will be describing in their stories. And on top of that they’ll likely be managed in a hostile work environment like I describe above.

    • Murc says:

      The really annoying part is that actual software developers and engineers and whatnot in India are smart, dedicated, hardworking people who know what they’re doing.

      I have to deal with those guys on a daily basis at my job. They’re hella smart. Smarter than me, that’s for sure. But they’re on the other side of the planet, have only the haziest idea of what we do here, and our communications with them flow through a narrow pipeline that’s often clogged.

      • BubbaDave says:

        Seems like the same rules apply in India as elsewhere– smart people want more money. So the offshorers who pay the least possible get idiots, and the ones who pay better get the smart ones. (Then, as you say, communication and logistical issues make things worse.)

        • 😼 Pseudonym 😼 says:

          India has an incredibly strong advanced STEM education system drawing from a population several times as large as the US. Looking there to take advantage of the talent pool is definitely a good idea. (That doesn’t excuse the rampant abuse in the H1B visa program.) Looking there merely to save costs, though, generally isn’t.

          • twbb says:

            India also has a lot of marginally educated and talented people with highly dubious resumes trying to coast on the IIT’s reputation and the tendency for a lot of US-based human resources departments to be marginally talented and highly credulous.

  8. narciblog says:

    It’s interesting, isn’t it, how offshore countries never seem to generate any management or C-level executives?

    • CrunchyFrog says:

      On the contrary, Silicon Valley is full of immigrants who started offshore. None of them are the quiet, competent type however. (But that archetype executive, once common, is now nearly extinct anyway.) They all are talkers, constantly selling themselves, having come from an environment where you have to make noise and get attention in order to get ahead. Results are immaterial – it’s about how well you convince the buyers (the board of directors, the CEO of a prospect, etc.) that you can produce results. Every meeting, every conference call with these kind of managers is taken up with them filling the time talking, trying desperately to impress everyone with their wisdom and experience, usually saying cliche platitudes and adding absolutely nothing of any value.

      Hmmm … in that context you can see why Trump has ascended to be the Presidential nominee of a major party.

    • Pseudonym says:

      That would be news to, say, Sundar Pichai or Satya Nadella.

      • Just_Dropping_By says:

        It would also be news to Vikram Pandit (former Citigroup CEO) and Ajay Banga (current CEO of MasterCard), to pick two completely off-the-top-of-my-head examples.

    • Murc says:

      It’s interesting, isn’t it, how offshore countries never seem to generate any management or C-level executives?

      Recently the company I work for denied an Indian guy promotion into upper management explicitly because he was Indian.

      I mean. He can’t prove that. But he was basically told straight-up “We’re an outsourcing company whose primary selling point is that we provide skilled, local talent. We cannot have an Indian guy in charge of our marketing, because that gives the impression we’re selling some cut-rate hellhole in Bangalore. Your name and face cannot be the first thing prospective clients see. It just can’t.”

    • BubbaDave says:

      I’ll just mention Indra Nooyi here. You might have heard of a tiny little company called Pepsico.

    • narciblog says:

      Sorry, I was tired and the snark got in the way of my point. What I was trying to say is that you never see companies outsourcing the really expensive executive jobs. Surely it’s not because India doesn’t generate good business minds? All you’d have to do is outsource *one* CEO, say taking the salary from $10M to $1M, and you’ve done the work of outsourcing several dozen programmers, at least.

    • mutterc says:

      (Assuming you’re talking about offshoring management in a US company): For anyone working at a big company, middle management and higher might as well be in a different country. Surely if the work’s just as good but cheaper, the Free Market would demand everyone offshore their management, right?

    • geniecoefficient says:

      In the interests of boosting de-Boner’s LGM mentions beyond their already stratospheric levels, this is piece is germane – an attack on writers who are so fond of lecturing displaced workers about their lack of charity toward the global poor – the “charity for you but not me” crowd.

      The piece has the trademark peevishness and predictable targets, but it makes a decent case that framing trade as a moral imperative is usually going to involve hypocrisy.

      Apologies to all for invoking FDB in a semi-positive light.

  9. Dr. Acula says:

    Fuck them. When I lost my TLA job, these assholes were basically laughing about it.

  10. Bruce Vail says:

    I believe it was Bloomberg that pioneered the outsourcing of journalism jobs. The theory was that a lot of financial journalism was reporting newly disclosed numbers (SEC reports, quarterly earnings, etc.) in a standardized format, and that Indian nationals could do this much more cheaply than Americans.

  11. Gregor Sansa says:

    Even Henry Ford, antisemitic asshole that he was, wanted to pay the people making cars enough so that they could eventually afford a car. Nowadays the goal is to make sure the people making newspapers can’t afford a newspaper. I don’t think this will end well.

  12. mutterc says:

    Programmers have known that for a long time, of course. Though we seem to have reached an equilibrium of sorts (I lost a decade of career thinking that India would eat all knowledge work any week now).

    A lot of the typical low-quality problems can be avoided by offshoring without outsourcing (that is, open an office in India and hire direct). My last few jobs have done that and actually get reasonable quality that way.

  13. so-in-so says:

    Also, a lot of the media have been “phoning it in” for a long time, so they can do that from Calcutta as well as Kalamazoo, right?

    • Bruce Vail says:

      Right. There are thousands of American journalists out there who are practically chained to their desks, required to produce their articles using the internet and the telephone. Their bosses do not want them out in the field doing face-to-face reporting, because it eats up too much time and money.

      The logical next step is that this kind of reporting can be done from offices in India or the Philippines, at dramatically lower cost.

  14. geniecoefficient says:

    [deleted in order to move upthread.]

  15. Bitter Scribe says:

    The worst case I ever saw of this was a community newspaper that livestreamed city council meetings to Bangalore or some such place to be written up.

  16. […] at the International Business Times. Apparently it’s hoping to outsource some of the jobs to […]

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