New Haven Advocate Outsources Its Writing To India

It started as a joke, but then alt-weekly New Haven Advocate hired Indian journalists to write one issue of the paper.

They posted ads on Craigslist, lined up a stable of freelancers who could handle the 12 hour time difference, and had at.

“Most sections proved possible to farm out—and with sometimes hilarious results. Journalist Dev Das interviewed a pair of mind-readers performing a world-premiere telepathy show in West Hartford this week — then he shared a vindaloo recipe with their publicist. The band Cake thought our idea was absurd and funny, and were good sports to play along.”

But despite not saving the paper a lot of money, it took some serious work, too:
“If our owners want to replace us with Indians, all we can say is good luck! If they find locating, hiring and keeping after these writers half the challenge we did, they might think twice about replacing us. Far from giving us a week off, it took the staffs of all three Advocate/Weekly papers to assign, edit, manage and assemble this project.”

Apparently some of the writers flaked and some turned in sloppy copy, but anyone who tries to assemble a freelance staff from the ground up is going to run into these problems. More importantly, can you cover local news without being local?

The editors write: “Call us old-school, but we think good, old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism is worth the price. Outsourcing could certainly fill pages, probably very cheaply, but what’s lost is the very essence of local newspapers: presence. At city hall, the local music club or out on the street talking up average folks, presence is what sets local newspapers (dinosaurs though they are sometimes) apart, and what outsourced news could never replace.”

Check out the paper yourself. What do you think? (The mentalist article, for example, isn’t half bad.)