Monday, July 7, 2008

Indian Report on Outscourcing

From the Hindustan Times

Similarly, Gurgaon-based Express KCS has grown from 20 to 400 employees in the past year and a half. The firm counts American newspaper chains including McClatchy and MediaNews Group among its clients. It has yet to handle editorial tasks for an American newspaper, but Chief Operating Officer Tariq Husain said the company is in talks with "seven or eight" interested papers, which he declined to name because agreements are pending.

Editors at Express KCS are often journalists hired from Indian publications, and the company works to familiarize them with American editing standards. Husain said many are between the ages of 22 and 30 and are usually single. The firm runs shifts around the clock, and employees work five shifts each week.

Mindworks also hires editorial staff from English-language newspapers and magazines. The average age is 30, and employees have on average 15 years of work experience.

Whether editorial outsourcing takes off depends on the success of these companies' initial efforts. The financing certainly makes sense: Edmonds said a copy editor at a medium-sized American newspaper makes between $30,000 to $60,000 per year, compared to between $4,800 and $14,480 at Express KCS.

But it remains to be seen whether outsourcing will cause a dip in editorial quality. "As far as making improvements to the writing – correcting misspellings and mistakes in grammar and punctuation – I don't see any particular reason why that couldn't be done," Edmonds said. At the same time, he added, effective copy editing often requires strong familiarity with the geographic area served by the newspaper, something an Indian employee might lack.

UPDATE: Blogger Ben L. Kaufman says this about copy editing:

A New York Times columnist eulogizes vanishing copy editors. Their most basic task is to make reporters look more literate, more accurate and smarter than we are. They correct our errors, draw readers with smart, contextual headlines and protect us and our papers from libel by challenging defamatory statements.

They're the last defense of skepticism, vital to the traditional multilayer editing of every story. Or they were.

No computer can replace them. I've had midlevel management invent and insert fake material in my stories, but not copy editors, and I'm unaware of most of the embarrassments copy editors have saved me. Yet I remember a very young, very new copy editor asking this then-veteran religion reporter, "Ben, how do you spell parishioner?" Seems I forgot (or didn't know about) that second "i." I'll bet she dined out on that catch. I should have bought.

Associated Press reports that The Orange County Register is hiring copy editors in New Delhi to handle some work for that Pulitzer-winning California daily. It's a one-month trial. Should be fun.

Indian English isn't quite British English and isn't American English. Peoples separated by a common language.... Can't wait until a headline uses the verb "Felicitated" or "Bobbitised." I've seen both.

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