|Down To Business: Offshoring Mania Goes To
By Rob Preston
May 19, 2007
Whether it's tech or journalism jobs we're trying to protect, the
discourse has gone over the top.
It's hard to decide which is more amusing: the revelation that a
Pasadena, Calif., Web site is outsourcing its "local" news reporting
journalists in India, or the shrieking response of the journalism
It just goes to show that when it comes to the outsourcing and
services and jobs, no industry is unscathed.
In case you missed the j-sourcing brouhaha, the editor and publisher
Now is paying two reporters--one in Bangalore and one in
to cover the Pasadena City Council from afar. Now, Pasadena Now, an
that attracts about 45,000 visitors a month, doesn't pretend to be
Angeles Times. Yet journalism professors and other high-brow media
out of the woodwork to decry the site's offshoring arrangement as
(you can't possibly chronicle the inner workings of city government
miles away!), impractical (the time and energy spent checking the
cleaning up the copy will offset any cost savings!), and a
precedent (Pasadena Now today, CNN and the New Yorker tomorrow!).
their right mind would trust the reporting of people who not only
don't know the
institutions but aren't even there to witness the events and
USC journalism prof Bryce Nelson in an L.A. Times story. "This is a
picture of what American journalism could become."
Haven't we heard these kinds of protests and this line of reasoning
else? We're told that offshore developers and call center agents
don't have the
tech chops or communications abilities of their U.S. counterparts,
and that they
can't possibly appreciate the business nuances that are a big part
of the job.
And with all the training and hand-holding and do-over work
cheap offshore workers are terrible investments in the long run.
If that's truly the case, U.S. companies will realize the error of
soon enough. Dell, for one, moved some technical support back
onshore after its
U.S. customers complained. MONY, Sprint Nextel(S), JPMorgan Chase,
and scores of
other companies have reclaimed outsourced IT operations after
figuring out that
they were losing a competitive edge. Other companies burned by
have learned to be more selective or to manage them differently.
people who run Dell and JPMorgan Chase (and Pasadena Now)--not a
disengaged critics--will decide whether their customers and
are best served by offshoring. Offshore experimentation is
unstoppable, but it's also reversible.
Related to this rancorous offshoring debate is the practice of
professionals from India and other countries under H-1B visas.
public policy critics are trying to right the program's
down to companies in the United States bringing foreign nationals
here to work
because they're skilled and relatively inexpensive, and because they
the companies' global aspirations. This hiring is deemed unfair to
As evidence that the offshoring and H-1B visa paranoia has spiraled
control, a site operated by the Public Broadcasting Service reported
that IBM plans to terminate 150,000 U.S. workers, even though the
doesn't have nearly that many U.S. workers. Meantime, a worker group
called on U.S. colleagues to walk off their jobs for 15 minutes on
May 15 to
"tell IBM to stop abandoning good U.S. jobs." While you're at it,
why not hang
"expendable" signs around your necks?
The best way to prove that your job or function isn't easily or
outsourced or otherwise replaceable is to prove every day that
flexible, creative, and thus indispensable to the organization. If
then yes, you're vulnerable. It's just the way this global economy
is and will always be.