The Latest Nail In Newspapers' Coffin? Outsourcing


The newspaper business has been struggling to reinvent itself to compete. Now the Orange County Register is trying a new way to cut costs: outsourcing to India.

Mindworks Global Media will copy edit some of the papers stories for a one-month trial starting next week. And a community newspaper owned by the O.C. Register's parent company--it didn't name which one--will outsource page layout to Mindworks, which is based outside New Delhi.

This isn't enabling any layoffs--not yet. The company insists it's just a test, and it won't affect reporting or decision making and that O.C.-based editors will continue to oversee the month. Orange County Register Communications has been suffering through a rough patch. As its circulation tumbled, dropping the company from being California's third largest paper to its fifth largest, the company has done three rounds of layoffs in the past year.

So what does this test bode for the ailing business? (see my analysis of the newspaper industry's struggles here) Is this a way to cut significant costs? Or does it undermine the very spirit of a regional paper to send copyediting duties to India? Having worked in journalism, I can attest that copyeditors do a lot more than spell checking; they also take on syntax and grammatical issues, thinking about local idioms and sayings.

Is that outsourcable? Chief copyeditors at places like the New York Times and New Yorker are revered. If that part of the newsroom is sent overseas, what's next, reporting? Or is this the kind of cost cutting that the business needs?

Questions? Comments?