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. "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 told Editor & Publisher's Mark Fitzgerald.
The first issues will be released Thursday with the cover of each paper each paper emblazoned with the statement: "Sorry, we've Been Outsourced. This Issue Made In India," according to editorsweblog.org.
The relationship between the content and the reporter has produced results that may provoke some bemusement among the Connecticut readership. The pieces outsourced cover local news, entertainment and culture. Nilanjana Bhowmick enlightens Essex (Conn.) residents about the annual Rotary Club Shad bake, and advises, "Enjoy shad the way you feel comfortable. If George Washington was not daunted by its bones, why should you? After all, shad is not just a fish, it's a celebration of life!"
Immediate reactions of readers ranged from "this is an interesting, entertaining and provocative idea" to "some people who think it's idiotic," Adamian revealed. The publishers were conscious that they would inevitably risk encountering problems of a professional and logistical nature, "What if they're really good at it?" Adamian 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?"
The journalists replied to advertisements posted on Craigslist on the Mumbai and Bangalore sites, the primary cities for US outsourcing. "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 an explanatory note for online readers, the staff of the Advocate qualified that outsourcing was "not cheap" but the "experiment" was worth the "price", in the longer term campaign for the protection of classic journalism. Ultimately, with the benefit of wisdom through trial and error, the 'old school' local journalist could be reinstated with aplomb.
"But it's clear that in an age when publications are aggressively cutting costs and reducing staffs, India's millions of wired English speakers may present an irresistible resource. If so, our Indian colleagues will have earned the last laugh."