Connecticut Alt-Papers Outsource Editorial Content to India

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

The Hartford (Conn.) Advocate and two of its New Mass. Media alternative weekly siblings outsourced all their editorial content to India for their issue that hits the streets Thursday.

“It’s been fascinating to me to see this go from a chuckle in an edit meeting to an entire issue,” Group Managing Editor John Adamian said in a telephone interview.

All the local news, arts and entertainment reviews, restaurant critiques in the Advocate papers in New Haven and Hartford plus the Fairfield County Weekly were written by Indian freelancers hired for the occasion using ads on Craigslist sites in Mumbai and Bangalore — the two favorite spots for U.S. outsourcing to India.

So Nilanjana Bhowmick writes about the Shad Bake the Essex (Conn.) Rotary Club holds, as well the Shad Derby Festival. Nidhi Sharma Kirti writes about a new exhibition of Pequot Native American art opening in Ledyard. Even the sex-advice column was outsourced to the land of the Kama Sutra.

In one example, Vijayalaxmi Hegde writes about an upcoming concert by the California group Cake: “Perhaps, it is this versatility — this ability to belong to many genres and not be constrained by one — that is the key to Cake’s longevity. It’s been a decade and a half since the Motorcade of Generosity rolled by and close to two decades since ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle’ happened. If this is not durability for an indie band, what is?”

Every article has the same notation below the byline: “This article was written by an Indian freelancer.”

As Adamian said, this week’s newspapers — with front covers saying, “Sorry, We’ve Been Outsourced. This Issue Made In India” — began with a joke. At a news budget meeting he remarked that he had read about plans by one news organization to outsource local coverage to Indian journalists monitoring meetings remotely. Maybe the three New Mass. Media alt-weeklies should try that, he said in jest.

“But then the joke quickly became: What if they’re really good at it?” he said. “What if we laugh ourselves out of a job? And then the questions grew more practical and more pressing: How do we coordinate an interview between an Indian journalist and a Californian musician with the 12-plus-hour time difference?”

First-day reaction from readers ranged from ranged from “this is an interesting, entertaining and provocative idea” to “some people who think it’s idiotic,” Adamian said.

The freelancers were hired from the ads posted in Mumbai and Bangalore in March. “We got some responses from people who were very, very qualified and had written for The Guardian, the BBC and The Times of India — and were well outside our budget,” Adamian said.

In a unsigned note to readers, the Advocate said outsourcing “was not cheap.”

Listings were not outsourced because of the possibility of mistakes, and the papers were unable to get a horoscope or crossword puzzle in time, Adamian added.

Links to stories from the papers are posted on E&P?s business-oriented Fitz & Jen blog.

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