11 responses to “Debate continues over outsourcing copyediting to India”

  1. Paula Berinstein

    I like to think about it this way, Michelle. Would Americans be good copy editors for Indian newspapers?

    Didn’t think so.

  2. Jay Bryant

    The problem with outsourcing has been pointed out so well…the folks on the other side of the earth don’t fully understand the cultural differences that can make such a big difference to the tone & accuracy of the story.

  3. Pam

    No matter how well educated and well trained Indian copy editors are, they cannot acquire the lifetime of knowledge specific to this culture in a matter of days or weeks or months. I wouldn’t try to edit anything for an Indian publication; they shouldn’t try to edit for US papers. Only an idiot driven by bottom-line considerations only would think these are swappable skills. It may be that tech matters can be sent overseas–and I don’t say that they should be–but the essence of what we do requires familiarity with our language and culture. Hell, I’ve worked with a couple of Australians based in the US who struggled to adapt their sense of language to American papers. How is someone in India, not even here, going to pick it up?

  4. WordCount recap - Weekly news from the digital media biz « WordCount - Freelancing in the digital age

    [...] New York Times’ Maureen Dowd uses the paper’s Op-Ed pages to ruminate on the trend of outsourcing newspaper work to India. Dowd interviews James Macpherson, publisher of Pasadena Now, an online only news site, who fired [...]

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    [...] declining subscriptions: filing for bankruptcy protection, mortgaging properties, slashing jobs, outsourcing to India, folding entire sections, trimming geographic distribution, dropping 7 day-a-week distribution, [...]

  6. Ganesh

    This debate is absolutely a fair one – from the viewpoint of best-fit workforce for a given job-type. [Let us leave out the state of economy, the situation with job opportunities, etc. If there are jobs that can utilize local talent, and fellow unemployed citizens who can do the job at costs that an entity can addord are available as well, then it might be responsible/patriotic to offer such jobs to local job-seekers.]

    News stories that rely on a copy-editor’s familiarity with local geography, culture and history – recent or past – would obviously be treated well by an American editor. International stories, especially the Asian ones, stories on science, technology or academics might be expected to be done satisfactorily by an Indian copy editor as well.

    I quite liked one of the comments above that poses the question of suitability of an American copy editor to edit a typically Indian news story!

  7. Ritu Uttamchandani

    I tend to agree with Paula and Ganesh comments above. I have worked with Cosmic Strands, a niche publishing services company based in Bangalore, India who provide copy editing services for academic and profesional publishing. I know first-hand how much effort an Indian copy editor must make, what sort of training program they must go through before they appreciate all nuances of copy editing artcles authored by other people – native (informal usage) or non-native alike, although the latter may pose great challenge for any copy editor. However, in areas where good substantive understanding is helpful and one understands the basic dynamics of the language, an Indian copy editor might do as well. It is I think informal writing styles of native authors where in general a typical Indian editor is likely to face grave challenges.

  8. Anuj B

    “No matter how well educated and well trained American copy editors are, they cannot acquire the lifetime of knowledge specific to Indian culture in a matter of days or weeks or months. I wouldn’t try to edit anything for an American publication; they shouldn’t try to edit for Indian papers. Only an idiot driven by bottom-line considerations only would think these are swappable skills. It may be that tech matters can be sent overseas–and I don’t say that they should be–but the essence of what we do requires familiarity with our language and culture. Hell, I’ve worked with a couple of Australians based in India who struggled to adapt their sense of language to Indian papers. How is someone in America, not even here, going to pick it up?”

    Hold it! Sounds very familiar – in particular if you have already read the responses above? No plagiarism intended folks! I have just swapped India and Indian(s) with America and American(s) respectively, and suddenly I derived Paula Berinstein’s perspective out of Pam’s (both above). Interestingly, Ritu Uttamchandani’s point of view became prudent for me. The whole question concerns best-fit for a given job, and outsourcing is never done (should never be done!) to a person/location that doesn’t meet one’s overall criteria: generally low cost with quality and timeframes intact! Let’s either develop the best resources in America (India) and get everything done in America (India) or outsource when needed as long as the action is compatible with the constraints of our times….

  9. Meera Vishu

    An interesting and relevant discussion. As an Indian copy editor, I agree that cultural differences can be a challenge for some aspiring editors, but I also think that acquiring the relevant knowledge to copyedit culturally different material is a matter of exposure, time, practice, and experience. With the Internet and television, bringing American — or Western — culture closer to an Indian audience is easier and possible today, and the nuances of a different culture and language can be learned if one has some aptitude and good language skills. Indian copy editors must work hard, but what drives the best ones is, I believe, a love of language, and that is one passion that is shared by good copy editors regardless of cultural origins.

  10. Ankur Agarwal

    I don’t think the experiment will last much longer than the one month quoted! At the most for page layouts, but certainly not copy. A newspaper is the heart of a community: no amount of knowing styles of English teaches you a community, its ways of living, its slang; you have to grow up in families, Internet at least now doesn’t help you there. Maybe in fifty years’ time we would be having corpora which may make this possible, but that homogenized and boring a world is still far away, and merci beaucoup!

    As far as the questions of selectivity go, the local newspapers don’t run on Asian and international stories: they anyway take syndicated stories and pictures for such extra fillings. The slabs of meat are the local gossip, sports, and community concerns. As long as one is outsourcing books to India it’s fine, because there you deal with academic English plus you are publishing something only libraries buy (since anyway fiction won’t go to India, anyway not much retail, mostly just trade), so you are keen on maximizing returns. Newspapers? Besides being left agape at the insolence of any Indian agency that thinks it should even do it, forget the can do it, I am left laughing red at such an experiment even thought of by someone!

  11. Copyediting in India « Stylus Writes: Random Reflections and Creative Musings

    [...] do, copy editors need to be part of the local fabric of the community to do their jobs well” (http://michellerafter.wordpress.com/2008/07/22/debate-continues-over-outsourcing-copyediting-to-indi…). Would an American be able to copy edit an Indian newspaper as well as an Indian copy editor? Some [...]

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