Some news agencies are outsourcing local news
Millions of American workers have been put out of work as employers move operations overseas. It’s true in manufacturing, data processing and customer service.
Now it’s true for local news. That’s right, media giants including Sam Zell’s Tribune Company have begun to send local reporting jobs overseas. To the Philippines.
According to a major story by This American Life, dozens of papers around the country have outsourced local news production to Journatic, a company that hires underpaid workers in the Phillippines to create local news for communities in the United States.1
Journatic’s employees attach fake bylines to their stories to obscure its outsourcing scheme. Zell’s Tribune Company has bought into this deception, hoping people won’t notice the journalistic sleight of hand. A whistleblower at Journatic who figured it out had this to say:
“It’s sort of a tattered product that’s being written overseas, halfheartedly edited, and just kind of slopped on the page.”
Most readers of the Tribune Company’s many print and broadcast news outlets would be outraged to know that local reporting was produced in news sweatshops abroad, where writers make 35 – 40 cents per story.
Local news organizations must be accountable to the communities in which they operate. That means hiring reporters who work among us and walk the same streets, who have direct ties to the people and issues that affect our lives.
That’s not what Zell thinks. He’s using Journatic’s assembly line; writers in the Philippines, editors in far-flung corners of the US, and even paragraphs that are auto-generated by computers, to repackage local press releases and public information as real reporting. It’s not.
Zell, who has a notorious disregard for journalism,2 hopes that you won’t notice — that he can save money by fooling Americans and faking local news. His Tribune Company stretches from New York to Los Angeles, from Chicago to New Orleans, and includes dozens of daily newspapers and local TV stations.
Since he took the helm at the Tribune Company, Zell has slashed more than 200 newsroom jobs. Now, with this Journatic deal, it’s clear that Zell’s assault on journalism isn’t over.
Sign our letter to Zell so that the Tribune Company chairman and media executives across the country know that you can’t fake local news. With your help we can return local reporters to local beats.