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Media Alert Makes a Difference and reverses newspaper’s policy

July 18, 2012

This Media Alert update is from the Free Press.

On July 1, we posted a Media Alert from Free Press about the Chicago Tribune’s outsourcing of news stories.

On July 17, Free Press volunteers visited Tribune Tower in Chicago, delivering over 20,000 signatures with a simple message for Tribune and other media giants:

Don’t sell out local journalism. Stop outsourcing local news and put out-of-work local journalists back on local beats.

We want news produced by local journalists and coverage of the issues our community cares about. When you outsource local reporting to underpaid overseas workers, everyone in the community loses.

Free Press launched this petition after This American Life aired a report showing that Tribune, Hearst and other media companies had dismantled local newsrooms at dozens of papers, replacing skilled local reporters with a third-party company called Journatic. Journatic pays workers in the Philippines 35–40 cents a story to manufacture “local” articles for papers in Chicago, San Francisco, Houston and Hartford, among other cities.

And Journatic has a weak grasp on journalistic ethics, to say the least. Journatic’s clients have found themselves in hot water for running stories with fake bylines and plagiarized text.

Newspaper giants need to realize what the public already knows: There’s no substitute for real local journalism. But Tribune and Hearst are paying lip service to the public outcry, applying WD-40 to the assembly line instead of dismantling it.

The Chicago Tribune indefinitely suspended the use of Journatic following a plagiarism revelation. But Tribune’s other papers, including the Hartford Courant and the Orlando Sentinel, are still using Journatic. And despite reports that over 350 fake bylines were published in the Houston Chronicle alone, Hearst has simply committed to removing those bylines — not to ending its relationship with Journatic.

It should be clear by now that good local news can’t be outsourced. We need accountable, local journalists who know their communities and uphold journalistic ethics. Today’s petition delivery won’t be our last. We’ll continue to push for changes at the companies that have sacrificed local news for what whistleblower Ryan Smith has dubbed “pink-slime journalism.” To send a message to Journatic’s clients, from the media giants on down to the editors at your local newspaper, sign our petition today.

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