Is journalism becoming an offshore profession? News agencies such as Reuters started the trend by transferring some of its desk jobs to India – to save money, of course. When some journalistic organisations questioned the trend, Reuters insisted it was comparable to having the New York office cover stories about companies in Chicago. But many journalists were not appeased, especially after learning that at least 20 staff faced reassignment or the sack. Reaction has been swift. The New York branch of The Newspaper Guild – the equivalent of the NUJ – said it will fight the plan. In The Calcutta Telegraph, the noted journalist Gouri Chatterjee suggested it would result in many Indian journalists being consigned to mindless drudgery, without ever graduating to anything more challenging than culling basic information from company reports.
American journalists are also joining forces to protest about recent court decisions that threaten to send journalists to jail – or risk heavy fines – if they refuse to reveal the source of stories, if a court makes the demand. More than 3,000 journalists have signed a petition and the target is 10,000, which will be incorporated in a major newspapers ad campaign. Many newspapers have already indicated they will run the ads for free, while several foundations have promised as much as $100,000 so that ads can be placed in such papers as The NY Times, USA Today and The Washington Post. Ultimately the petition will be presented to the US Justice Department and Congress.
One of the trickiest decisions for picture editors these days is deciding whether to print the horrific pictures emanating from the Middle East and other hot spots. It was bad enough when pictures began circulating of hostages getting beheaded in Iraq. But the pictures that evoked the strongest response were those of the children slaughtered in the hostage drama in Russia. At The Chicago Tribune, which ran a five-column picture of the dead children across Page One, the phones began ringing almost as soon as the paper hit the streets. Some readers accused the paper of sensationalism, others said they were sickened and disgusted. The paper defended itself by saying there were many more gruesome pictures that could have been used and added that, if children need to be protected from reality, it was up to their parents to do so.
Or better still, explain to them what the pictures mean.
Hearst and Disney are pulling the plug on Lifetime, the women’s magazine they launched just l8 months ago to cash in on a popular cable TV programme for women.
The October issue will be its last. Both companies had invested a lot of time and money on the project, but ultimately found it difficult to translate what’s popular on cable TV into print, especially at a time when the field is becoming so crowded.
But there is better news for publishers here venturing into the ethnic market. In fact some publishers are learning Spanish as fast as you can say ‘rapido’. The growing Spanish-speaking population is resulting in a proliferation of Spanish-language papers. In San Antonio, Texas, a company called Meximerica Media, with backing from Pearson, has launched Rumbo, the first of four new tabloids. And many papers are launching special supplements. The Houston Chronicle has launched LaVibra and The Washington Post has bought El Tempo Latino.
By Jeffrey Blyth