Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Outsourced Future for Newspapers?

Is page proofing and editing a value added function for newspapers? Evidently the New Zealand Herald has decided that it is not and are outsourcing these functions to a third party.
According to news reports (Forbes):
Starting Sunday, 20 sub editors will work full time at contractor Pagemasters New Zealand at a site 20 minutes from the paper's editorial offices. By year end, Pagemasters will employ about 45 editing staff at their site to edit the seven newspapers - nearly 30 fewer than the newspapers employed.
If all goes according to plan, by year end five daily and three weekly papers will enjoy the benefits of this outsourced program. Among those benefits are better use of content across all the papers, lower expenses and more efficient use of production and editorial technology.

Naturally journalism groups don't approve of this measure (Seven Network)
"This is a panic measure to save money, but in the end it is crazy economics because it will only further reduce the quality of journalism and accelerate circulation decline," IFJ general secretary Aidan White said in a statement. When APN's outsourcing was originally announced earlier this year the IFJ said it had never before been attempted on such a large scale and represented a threat to news around the world.

This could be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg since the Herald is part owned by Independent News and Media which also announced a similar program for newspapers in Ireland. INM owns over 170 newspapers around the world including The Independent and The Irish Independent. If this program works it will be rolled out to many more newspapers.

I am however reminded of Bill Keller's (NYT Executive Editor) recent comments that in the age of Internet reporting, perhaps journalists will be required to edit themselves more than they have ever been because the inherent need to publish quicker doesn't allow for edit and revision cycles found at traditional newspapers. He also said editorial standards may fall because of this evolution. How much then is this move to outsource only a weigh station in the elimination of the process of editing itself?

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