Friday, June 27, 2008

Outsourcing content to the subcontinent

Cut my copy with care, sir.

As newspapers across the U.S. slash budgets and lay off staff, reports the Columbia Journalism Review, more and more are outsourcing jobs in their advertising and circulation departments. Companies like Express KCS in Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi, are booming...largely because they can save the typical U.S. newspaper 30 to 50 percent a year. Less than two years ago, Express KCS had no more than twenty employees. By late January, that figure was closer to two hundred, most of them single men in their twenties pulling in between $400 and $1,000 a month—a salary that, in urban India, is healthy though not opulent. By year’s end, Express KCS will likely employ between five hundred and six hundred workers in Gurgaon.

Much of that growth will come from a new, and disturbing, dimension of Express KCS’s services—outsourced editorial services. Express KCS doesn’t propose to report or write stories, but it does offer copy editing (or “subbing,” as it’s known in India), page layout, and the writing of headlines and captions. By year’s end, Husain hopes that 10 to 15 percent of Express KCS’s business will come from outsourced editorial work. He said the company is discussing such work with more than one mainstream U.S. daily, though he wouldn’t name them.

If it happens, it won’t be without an uproar in the journalism world. (Already the Orange County Register has signed up for a month-long trial with one of their rival, Mindworks. Last year, the local news Web site Pasadena Now, in California, was roundly mocked when it announced a plan to have Indian reporters cover local government meetings via webcast.
Still, Express KCS is confident that it can properly train its employees and enter the editorial market. It has already signed up one client—London Property News, a suburban real-estate magazine delivered free with several regional newspapers in upscale British neighborhoods. But whether it’s advertising or editorial, Express KCS is clear about its ambitions: “We’ve got this list of the top one hundred [U.S. newspapers],” says CEO Robert Berkeley, “and we tick them off as we go.”

This is ticking me off as a professional journalist!! Or, as the Indians would say,
as a scribe.

Comment from WordWallah

One concern which seems to have escaped the bean counters who would outsource copy-editing (subbing) is that Indian English is very distinct, rooted in Colonial-era English and Hindustani, yielding a distinctive "Hinglish." Ever pick up an Indian newspaper or magazine? There are lots of peculiarly Indian idioms, such as these: "airdash, eve-tease, damp squib, condole, prepone..." likely to baffle the Yanks. (Some have enough trouble figuring out the call center guys' explanations.) Much of the spelling comes from Britain.

Kindly note that it is paining me to tell you this idea might go for a toss. A Himalayan blunder, yaar.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How to be a Model Journalist? Lovers brawl in the heat of War

The in-bedded puns are rife, as the NY Post reporter Todd Venezi sounds off on the 'IRAQI TRYSTs' of gorgeous pouting (and brave) Lara Logan.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES: "60 Minutes" star Lara Logan, allegedly kept at least two paramours at once - one of whom, CNN's Michael Ware, brawled over her honor, a source said.

Sexy CBS siren Lara Logan spent her days covering the heat of the Iraq war - but that was nothing compared to the heat of her nights.

The "60 Minutes" reporter and former swimsuit model apparently courted two beaus while she was in Baghdad, and has been labeled a homewrecker for allegedly destroying the marriage of a civilian contractor there, sources said.

Passions got so hot in the combat zone that one of her lovers, Joe Burkett, brawled in a Baghdad "safe house" with her other paramour, CNN war reporter Michael Ware, a source said.

The wife of Burkett, a US Embassy worker, claims the sultry 37-year-old correspondent seduced him while bullets flew overhead.

Burkett's wife, Kimberly, also accuses Logan of teaming up with him to take her 3-year-old daughter away, according to the source.

A close pal of Logan, who confirmed the allegations to The Post, said Burkett's marriage to Kimberly was already finished six months before they sparked up a relationship.

"She is not the cause of their divorce," the friend told The Post yesterday.

"It was going to happen."

The pal also said Logan was particularly hurt by the comments because she had met Kimberly Burkett and thought the two were "friendly."

Kimberly filed for divorce from her husband in January in a court near their hometown of Fredericksburg, Texas.

The husband, 36, and wife, 32, are now battling over custody of toddler Ashley.

Pals of Logan said that the divorce attorney is just grandstanding by dragging the rising television star into the Texas couple's split.

"Lara is not part of their divorce proceedings," a friend said.

"The simple truth is that this was a marriage that was breaking up. And that's the bottom line."

As for the other claims, pals admitted that Logan had a one-time fling with CNN reporter Ware - but denied that there was any sort of fight between him and Burkett in Baghdad.

"There was no screaming match," the pal said.

Tale of the love fight first broke on the in December.

The scandal comes just as the former model's journalistic career is starting to skyrocket.

It's a stunning turn of events for the respected journalist, who once told The Washington Post that she "has no social life."

Yesterday, CBS announced, without a hint of irony, that she was given a new Washington assignment as chief foreign-affairs correspondent. She joined the network in 2002 and became a "60 Minutes" correspondent in 2006.

The network touted her as the only American reporter who was in Baghdad when the United States invaded in 2003.

Logan was born in Durban, South Africa. She has been going through a divorce from her husband of nine years, Jason Siemon, a former European-league basketball player.

"That is a very sad thing for Lara," a pal said.

It has since been confirmed that Lara, now in Washington in a new position, is pregnant with the chld of the contractor. This has become international news and the 37 year old suffers from celebritification. SHe'll presumably get maternity leave from the cuchy new CHief Reporter job.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

NYT: Holding News in the Internet Age

Hold the Front Page? Dream on. Not anymore.
Noam Cohen, of the New York Times online, ponders the possibility of delaying news in the age of 24/7 twitterers and bloggers and instant access.

WHEN the NBC News host Tim Russert died on June 13, NBC tried to hold back the news from going public for more than an hour to notify his family vacationing in Italy and presumably to prepare for what became six hours of coverage on its cable news outlet, MSNBC.

And King Canute, ancient legend has it, tried to hold back the tide.

Mr. Russert collapsed from a heart attack in NBC’s Washington newsroom around 1:40 p.m.; he was treated there and then taken to a hospital, arriving at 2:23 and being pronounced dead shortly thereafter, according to press accounts. The network, in the voice of its respected former anchor, Tom Brokaw, announced the news at 3:39.

Long before Mr. Russert’s death was reported on air, however, it was flashing across the Internet via the text-messaging service Twitter and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Television networks have a tradition of allowing a network suffering a death to make the announcement first. Other news outlets, including The New York Times and The New York Post, were about five minutes earlier in reporting Mr. Russert’s death for their Web sites.

On Wikipedia, Mr. Russert’s page was updated at 3:01 p.m. — adding the date of death and turning present-tense verbs into the past tense almost 40 minutes before the NBC announcement. The entry was particularly influential since many journalists had heard of Mr. Russert’s becoming stricken, but did not know the outcome. If some turned to Wikipedia to refresh themselves about Mr. Russert, they found an article that seemed to confirm what many had been hearing.

“We were not prepared to say anything until all the family had heard,” said Allison Gollust, an NBC News spokeswoman. “The last thing we wanted to do was to have the family discover this on the air.” She said NBC had asked the other networks to hold back and they readily agreed.

“Before we reported it, I remember someone saying it’s on Wikipedia,” she said, which had them “flabbergasted.”

Holding back the news certainly isn’t the norm for journalists. Keith Olbermann, the MSNBC host, said on his prime-time show “Countdown” that Friday: “We wanted to be sure, absolutely certain, that every member of Tim’s family who needed to be told in person in private had that opportunity, was given that small piece of grace today. Other organizations did not do that.”

For better or worse, it seems that even NBC News cannot protect the family of one of its own in that way.

Looking at the detailed records of editing changes recorded by Wikipedia, it quickly emerged that the changes came from Internet Broadcasting Services, a company in St. Paul, Minn., that provides Web services to a variety of companies, including local NBC TV stations.

An I.B.S. spokeswoman said on Friday that “a junior-level employee made updates to the Wikipedia page upon learning of Mr. Russert’s passing, thinking it was public record.” She added that the company had “taken the necessary measures with the employee and apologized to NBC.” NBC News said it was told the employee was fired.

The instinct of the junior-level employee, presumably, was to correct the record on Wikipedia and share knowledge with the wider world. That flash of idealism was very brief; 11 minutes later, according to Wikipedia records, someone at another Internet Broadcasting computer deleted the date of death and turned all the past tenses back to present tenses. Only minutes later, of course, none of this would matter.

With the spread of online outlets like blogs and MySpace pages and citizen journalists, it can be easily forgotten that the only thing that the Internet cannot guarantee you is an interested audience.

Online journalists like Matt Drudge and Perez Hilton rely on the fact that their scoops will be read by influential members of the news media. But for the other self-made reporters out there, collective enterprises like Wikipedia, which allows anyone to make an edit, or the liberal blog DailyKos, which allows any registered user to post a diary, offer a rare chance to speak to a large audience.

In the case of Wikipedia, this is emphatically not what the site was meant to do. One of the principles of the site is No Original Research — every fact must have appeared somewhere reputable before it can be repeated. (This cause can seem an obsession as stickler editors patrol the site flagging unattributed facts with the label “citation needed.”)

Yet, time and again Wikipedia has been the place where news has broken, usually from anonymous writers who report a death on a person’s article page, like that of the feminist writer Andrea Dworkin in 2005, or, a year later, the killing of the film director and actress Adrienne Shelley in Greenwich Village.

The lesson seems to be this: as long as there is news, people will try to share it. And new technology promises to turn the process into a tide that can swallow us up, good intentions and all.

Monday, June 23, 2008

US Networks won't mention the wars much- 181 minutes, 150,000 troops!

New York Times reporter Brian Stelter talks to disgruntled war reporters about their dispatches. Most grumble that American networks put wars on the back burner. Here's his piece:

Getting a story on the evening news isn't easy for any correspondent. And for reporters in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is especially hard, according to Lara Logan, the chief foreign correspondent for CBS News. So she has devised a solution when she is talking to the network.

"Generally what I say is, 'I'm holding the armor-piercing R.P.G.,' " she
said last week in an appearance on "The Daily Show," referring to the initials for rocket-propelled grenade. " 'It's aimed at the bureau chief, and if you don't put my story on the air, I'm going to pull the trigger.' "
Ms. Logan let a sly just-kidding smile sneak through as she spoke, but her point was serious. Five years into the war in Iraq and nearly seven years into the war in Afghanistan, getting news of the conflicts onto television is harder than ever.

"If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts," Ms. Logan said.

According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been "massively scaled back this year." Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The "CBS Evening News" has devoted the fewest minutes to Iraq, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC's "World News" and 74 minutes on "NBC Nightly News." (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.)

CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed.

Paul Friedman, a senior vice president at CBS News, said the news division does not get reports from Iraq on television "with enough frequency to justify keeping a very, very large bureau in Baghdad." He said CBS correspondents can "get in there very quickly when a story merits it."

In a telephone interview last week, Ms. Logan said the CBS News bureau in Baghdad was "drastically downsized" in the spring. The network now keeps a producer in the country, making it less of a bureau and more of an office.

Interviews with executives and correspondents at television news networks
suggested that while the CBS cutbacks are the most extensive to date in
Baghdad, many journalists shared varying levels of frustration about placing
war stories onto newscasts. "I've never met a journalist who hasn't been
frustrated about getting his or her stories on the air," said Terry
McCarthy, an ABC News correspondent in Baghdad.

By telephone from Baghdad, Mr. McCarthy said he was not as busy as he was a
year ago. A decline in the relative amount of violence "is taking the
urgency out" of some of the coverage, he said. Still, he gets on ABC's
"World News" and other programs with stories, including one on Friday about
American gains in northern Iraq.

Anita McNaught, a correspondent for the Fox News Channel, agreed. "The
violence itself is not the story anymore," she said. She counted eight
reports she had filed since arriving in Baghdad six weeks ago, noting that
cable news channels like Fox News and CNN have considerably more time to
fill with news than the networks. CNN and Fox each have two fulltime
correspondents in Iraq.

Richard Engel, the chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, who splits his
time between Iraq and other countries, said he found his producers "very
receptive to stories about Iraq." He and other journalists noted that the
heated presidential primary campaign put other news stories on the back
burner earlier this year.

Ms. Logan said she begged for months to be embedded with a group of Navy
Seals, and when she came back with the story, a CBS producer said to her,
"One guy in uniform looks like any other guy in a uniform." In the follow-up
phone interview, Ms. Logan said the producer no longer worked at CBS. And in
both interviews, she emphasized that many journalists at CBS News are
pushing for war coverage, specifically citing Jeff Fager, the executive
producer of "60 Minutes." CBS News won a Peabody Award last week for a "60
Minutes" report about a Marine charged in the killings at Haditha.

On "The Daily Show," Ms. Logan echoed the comments of other journalists when
she said that many Americans seem uninterested in the wars now. Mr. McCarthy
said that when he is in the United States, bringing up Baghdad at a dinner
party "is like a conversation killer."

Coverage of the war in Afghanistan has increased slightly this year, with 46
minutes of total coverage year-to-date compared with 83 minutes for all of
2007. NBC has spent 25 minutes covering Afghanistan, partly because the
anchor Brian Williams visited the country earlier in the month. Through
Wednesday, when an ABC correspondent was in the middle of a prolonged visit
to the country, ABC had spent 13 minutes covering Afghanistan. CBS has spent
eight minutes covering Afghanistan so far this year.

Both Ms. Logan and Mr. McCarthy noted that more coalition soldiers were
killed in Afghanistan in May than in Iraq. No American television network
has a full-time correspondent in Afghanistan, although CNN recently said it
would open a bureau in Kabul.

"It's terrible," Ms. Logan said in the telephone interview. She called it a
financial decision. "We can't afford to maintain operations in Iraq and
Afghanistan at the same time," she said. "It's so expensive and the security
risks are so great that it's prohibitive."

Mr. Friedman said coverage of Iraq is enormously expensive, mostly due to
the security risks. He said meetings with other television networks about
sharing the costs of coverage have faltered for logistical reasons.

Journalists at all three American television networks with evening newscasts
expressed worries that their news organizations would withdraw from the
Iraqi capital after the November presidential election. They spoke only on
the condition of anonymity in order to avoid offending their employers.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hailing hacks killed before deadline

AN average of two war reporters per week are killed in the line of duty, and even more die after uncovering corruption and publicising politicians' pecadilloes. This spectacular monument has just been erected atop Broadcasting House to honor their sacrifices in getting news out to the world, according to the BBC online

A memorial to journalists killed while doing their work is to be unveiled by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The 10m (32ft) glass and steel cone atop central London's BBC Broadcasting House will shine a beam of light into the sky every evening at 10pm.

It is dedicated to all news journalists and those who have worked with them, including drivers and translators.

Over the past 10 years an estimated two war reporters have died each week, with many more killed covering corruption.

Relatives of some of the victims will join the UN Secretary General for the dedication ceremony.

Abdul Samad Rohani and Nasteh Dahir
The BBC's Abdul Rohani and Nasteh Dahir Faraah were both recently killed

The memorial's inauguration follows the recent deaths of two BBC journalists, Abdul Samad Rohani and Nasteh Dahir Faraah, in Afghanistan and Somalia.

Rodney Pinder, director of the International News Safety Institute (INSI), which works for more safety for journalists, said: "These men and women are the unsung heroes of democracy, for without a free press there can be no freedom.

"This shaft of light in the capital of international journalism is a visual reminder of their sacrifice."

The implicit contract, whereby journalists place their lives at risk to help us understand the world and its events better, needs to be reaffirmed

BBC Chairman Sir Michael Lyons drew attention to the risks taken by many journalists in the course of their work.

He said: "The implicit contract, whereby journalists place their lives at risk to help us understand the world and its events better, needs to be reaffirmed.

"At moments like this that sacrifice is properly valued and the loss is widely shared."

The sculpture, entitled Breathing, is by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

It was specially commissioned and selected as a result of an international competition for the BBC's public art scheme.

The BBC also commissioned a poem to complement the structure by ex-war correspondent and poet, James Fenton.

A year-and-a-half ago, Resolution 1738 was passed by the UN Security Council which demanded an end to attacks on journalists.

The full text of the James Fenton poem is:

We spoke, we chose to speak of war and strife – a task a fine ambition sought – and some might say, who shared our work, our life: that praise was dearly bought.

Drivers, interpreters, these were our friends. These we loved. These we were trusted by. The shocked hand wipes the blood across the lens. The lens looks to the sky.

Most died by mischance. Some seemed honour-bound to take the lonely, peerless track conceiving danger as a testing ground to which they must go back

till the tongue fell silent and they crossed beyond the realm of time and fear. Death waved them through the checkpoint. They were lost. All have their story here.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

'Meet the Press' man Meets His Maker on Friday the Thirteenth

Top US broadcaster and political pundit Tim Russert died on the job from a massive heart attack on Friday, and all the American media are remembering his achievements and on-air 'gotcha' moments with the high and mighty. He was 58 and had just returned from a European vacation after seeing his son graduate from college. He was regarded as one of the most influential political interviewers in America.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Soundproofing just got better! Cloak of silence will provide acoustical shield

(Graphic illustrates acoustic cloak simulation, in which sound waves are channelled around an object by sonic crystals.)

You can have a recording studio absolutely anywhere, if the latest technological "cloak of silence" works as promised by Spanish scientists. The BBC reports:

Scientists have shown off the blueprint for an "acoustic cloak", which could make objects impervious to sound waves.

The technology, outlined in the New Journal of Physics, could be used to build sound-proof homes, advanced concert halls or stealth warships.

Scientists have previously demonstrated devices that cloak objects from microwaves, making them "invisible".

"The mathematics behind cloaking has been known for several years," said Professor John Pendry of Imperial College London, UK, an expert in cloaking.

"What hasn't been available for sound is the sort of materials you need to build a cloak out of."

The Spanish team who conducted the new work believe the key to a practical device are so-called "sonic crystals".

These artificial composites - also known as "meta-materials" - can be engineered to produce specific acoustical effects.

"Unlike ordinary materials, their acoustic properties are determined by their internal structure," explained Professor Pendry.

These would be used to channel any sound around an object, like water flowing around a rock in a stream.

"The idea of acoustic cloaking is to deviate the sounds waves around the object that has to be cloaked," said Jose Sanchez-Dehesa of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, one of the researchers behind the new work.

He believes a material that consists of arrays of tiny cylinders would achieve this effect.

Simulations showed that 200 layers of this metamaterial could effectively shield an object from noise.

Thinner stacks would shield an object from certain frequencies.

"The thickness depends on the wavelength you want to screen," he told BBC News.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sexism Sells -- But We're Not Buying It

This montage of clips gathered by the Women's Media Center illustrates the kinds of gender stereotyping that still prevail in the US. It's interesting to view this video just as Hillary Clinton relinquishes her presidential aspirations for the 2008 election. Many younger women believe that the problem was not Hillary's gender and latent sexismm but her own dubious character and overreaching ambition. Sisters from the 1970s are not so sure. Obama's "sweeties" seemed to stick in their collective craw. According to these wrinkled sex warriors, post-millennial Misogyny is Alive and Well.

Judith Warner examines the zeitgeist in which Hillary floundered and “Sex” is now flourishing in her New York Times column, "Domestic Disturbances". Click on

But the question of the hour is--will racism defeat the charismatic Barack Obama in a secret ballot?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

another work-related risk for reporters? brain tumours from the cell phone

What do brain surgeons know about cellphone safety that the rest of us don't? asks Tara Parker-Pope in today's International Herald Tribune. Maybe reporters should text message more instead of being constantly on the mobile! It's possible it may be bad for your brain.

Last week, three prominent neurosurgeons told the CNN interviewer Larry King that they did not hold cellphones next to their ears. "I think the safe practice," said Dr. Keith Black, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, "is to use an earpiece so you keep the microwave antenna away from your brain."

Dr. Vini Khurana, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the Australian National University who is an outspoken critic of cellphones, said: "I use it on the speaker-phone mode. I do not hold it to my ear."

And CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon at Emory University Hospital, said that like Black he used an earpiece.

Along with Senator Edward Kennedy's recent diagnosis of a glioma, a type of tumor that critics have long associated with cellphone use, the doctors' remarks have helped reignite a long-simmering debate about cellphones and cancer.

That supposed link has been largely dismissed by many experts, including the American Cancer Society. The theory that cellphones cause brain tumors "defies credulity," said Dr. Eugene Flamm, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Medical Center.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, three large epidemiology studies since 2000 have shown no harmful effects. CTIA (the Wireless Association), the leading industry trade group, said in a statement, "The overwhelming majority of studies that have been published in scientific journals around the globe show that wireless phones do not pose a health risk."

The FDA notes, however, that the average period of phone use in the studies it cites was about three years, so the research doesn't answer questions about long-term exposures.

Cellphones emit non-ionizing radiation, waves of energy that are too weak to break chemical bonds or to set off the DNA damage known to cause cancer. There is no known biological mechanism to explain how non-ionizing radiation might lead to cancer.

But researchers who have raised concerns say that just because science can't explain the mechanism doesn't mean one does not exist. Concerns have focused on the heat generated by cellphones and the fact that the radio frequencies are absorbed mostly by the head and neck. In recent studies that suggest a risk, the tumors tend to occur on the same side of the head where the patient typically holds the phone.

Like most research on the subject, the studies are observational, showing only an association between cellphone use and cancer, not a causal relationship. The most important of these studies is called Interphone, a vast research effort in 13 countries, including Canada, Israel and several in Europe.

Some of the research suggests a link between cellphone use and three types of tumors: glioma; cancer of the parotid, a salivary gland near the ear; and acoustic neuroma, a tumor that essentially occurs where the ear meets the brain. All these cancers are rare.

Last year, The American Journal of Epidemiology published data from Israel finding a 58 percent higher risk of parotid gland tumors among heavy cellphone users. Also last year, a Swedish analysis of 16 studies in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed a doubling of risk for acoustic neuroma and glioma after 10 years of heavy cellphone use.

Some doctors say the real concern is not older cellphone users, who began using phones as adults, but children who are beginning to use phones today and face a lifetime of exposure.

The fear is that even if the individual risk of using a cellphone is low, with three billion users worldwide, even a minuscule risk would translate into a major public health concern.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bubba Trouble - The Comeback Id's comeback

Click here for the July Vanity Fair bombshell which so riled Bill Clinton's staff. The former president's point-by-point takedown of the writer, spouse of an erstwhile staffer, has sent a hurricane of hot air through the blogosphere. Most conclude that he protesteth too much about attacks on his id, his roving eye, and his post-op wrath. You be the judge of the 10,000 word article by Todd Perdum (or is that per diem?)

...the smiling, snowy-haired man who is the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral he attends, the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton.

And according to the New York Observer,Bill Clinton said yesterday as he attacked Vanity Fair's "The Comeback Id": "The editor of Esquire -- he sent us an email yesterday and said it was the single sleaziest piece of journalism he'd seen in decades." Esquire editor David Granger says he didn't not send any e-mail, but affirmed "it was one of my editors."