The World Beat
(Business 2.0) – Whenever we run a story on outsourcing, some readers are outraged: "Just wait until your job gets outsourced!" As we started to work on this special global issue, senior editor Damon Darlin made an intriguing suggestion: Let's outsource a story to India.
It was a great idea, but it didn't go far enough. After all, we "outsource" the reporting of stories to freelancers all the time. Instead, I decided to ship off the entire In Front section, to see what we'd learn.
Senior writer Om Malik introduced us to Shailaja Neelakantan, a Mumbai-born writer who had returned to India after working for eight years in the United States for Forbes and Bloomberg News, among others. She and her stringers came back with terrific stories: India's quest for a car cheap enough for the masses; a French "coolhunter" scouting the streets of Tokyo for new trends; a group of artists in London working on games that intertwine cell phones and the physical world. The pieces were reported, written, and edited in India, then sent to us.
It would have been unfair to expect printer-ready copy from Neelakantan. So we "top edited" and fact-checked her stuff the same way we do with copy prepared here at home. You can see the results starting on page 21.
For her part, Neelakantan found the globe-spanning project challenging. "Trying to figure out what's going on in Japan while sitting in India, that's difficult," she says. On our end, the logistics of working across distant time zones added an equally steep degree of difficulty. (When you have a question with a domestic stringer's copy, you pick up the phone and call her; that becomes abusive if it's 3 a.m. where the reporter lives.)
So, is offshoring something the journalism business needs to worry about? Not yet. The Indian team, which was certainly competent, got the job done for less. But our business is an intensely local one, filtered through local minds who are steeped in local sensibilities. And technology isn't yet sufficiently advanced to make offshoring a viable practice for the highly collaborative, implacable-deadline work of most magazine making.
Plenty of things are going on outside U.S. borders that are ready for you to seize upon, however. This issue--our first ever dedicated to a single topic--is packed with them, from the management tricks of Israel's brightest young tech companies ("The Startup Oasis," page 46) to Kenya's discovery of a market for ultrafresh vegetables ("More Green From Green Beans," page 64) to a British media firm's transplantation of the Idol singing competition to 30 countries ("The Reality Factory," page 74). We ranged around the world to bring you these stories, but I'm hoping you'll put the ideas to use right here.
JOSH QUITTNER, EDITOR firstname.lastname@example.org