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US: Reuters Outsourcing Journalists

by Jacques SteinbergNew York Times
February 9th, 2004

Outsourcing has become all the rage in recent years, and India has become a favorite destination for Western companies that want to send jobs to cheaper markets. Companies as different as Delta Air Lines and Dell Computer have hired workers or subcontractors to perform customer service, data entry or other computer-related jobs once done in the United States.

Now, Reuters is going a step further. It told its editorial employees in an electronic posting late last week that it planned to hire six journalists in Bangalore, India, to do basic financial reporting on 3,000 small to medium-size American companies.

"It's a place where you can get people who understand English, understand financial statements, understand journalism and who are educated to a very high standard and eager to do this kind of work,'' David Schlesinger, global managing editor of Reuters, said in a telephone interview. They are also relatively inexpensive, he added.

Though Reuters, which has its headquarters in London, is perhaps best known as an international news agency, it draws most of its revenue from the more than 400,000 people on Wall Street and in other financial centers who use its financial services products.

The reporters in Bangalore will mostly be responsible for extracting basic financial information from company news releases and quarterly earnings reports. Tasks like interviewing a company president, talking to analysts and covering breaking news, will continue to be done by more experienced journalists working in the countries where those companies operate, Mr. Schlesinger said.

While the pilot project is intentionally modest, it is related to a much larger effort, announced by Reuters late last year, that will send about 200 of its data-entry jobs to Bangalore from England and the United States.

The Economic Times, an Indian publication, reported last week that other media companies, including Time Warner, Disney and Bertelsmann, were considering outsourcing parts of their information technology and back-office operations to India.

In the message to employees about the journalism project, which will deal with companies Reuters does not cover regularly now, Mr. Schlesinger did not rule out expanding the project.

"I'll keep you informed as how this develops,'' he wrote. "This could be a very exciting way to get more news on our wires in a more efficient way.''

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