Service of Saving Money

July 26th, 2012

Categories: Cost Cuts, Full Disclosure, Guidelines, Manufacturing, Media, Newspapers, Principles, Saving Money


Who doesn’t want to save money, especially these days?

My friend Clotilde, [she asked me to use this pseudonym], told me about how some in one industry are approaching this objective although she didn’t cotton to the approach. Clotilde heard the story on NPR. I read David Folkenflik’s coverage in “Fake Bylines Reveal Hidden Costs Of Local News” on

oldfashionednewsroomFolkenflik wrote that major newspapers in Chicago, Houston and San Francisco admitted that they published print and/or online items under fake bylines.

That’s the least of it. According to Folkenflik, “As was first disclosed by the public radio program ‘This American Life,’ the items in question were not written by reporters on the staffs of the papers at all but by employees of what is effectively a news outsourcing firm called Journatic.

“‘How do you get police blotters from 90 towns? It’s not easy. But that’s what we do,’ says Brian Timpone, a former television reporter and small-town newspaper owner who created what became Journatic six years ago.”

strapped-for-cashFolkenflik continued, “Journatic has dozens of clients, many of them strapped for cash but all hungry to serve up local news for their readers.”

Worth repeating: I’ve found that daily newspapers are turning to syndicated stories to fill their pages rather than to spend money for reporters to cover local business news.

Back toFolkenflik:  “‘It’s a short-term cost-cutting measure, and that’s all it is,’ says Tim McGuire, the former editor-in-chief of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who now teaches media business and journalism ethics at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. ‘It’s not a long-term solution to providing local news to people who want it.'”

Journatic has 60 employees and 200 freelancers but what most caught my friend’s attention was that the company hires 100+ people from abroad to write copy. One employee who rewrites the foreigners’  material told Folkenflik that these writers are paid “a pittance.”

Since I began to write this post, the Chicago Tribune, a Journatic client, suspended its relationship when it learned that “the company had published stories with fake bylines and that a writer there had plagiarized a story on TribLocal, the network of suburban papers and hyperlocal websites Journatic published on behalf of Tribune,” according to Julie Moos on The Tribune has brought in a former editor as a consultant to help “the outsourcing company on its processes and standards.”

Are cut-rate solutions like this better than nothing? Do you think such cost-cutting measures will help save newspapers? 


3 Responses to “Service of Saving Money”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    That’s easy. Don’t need it? Don’t buy! Second thought: Pay in cash whenever possible. Saves on costly interest fees.

  2. GBS Said:

    Your story about fake bylines and a new news service comes as no surprise. People are expensive, and reporters are people. I also had thought that the practice of using “filler” in magazines and newspapers had been common practice in this country for a long time going back to Ben Franklin and before.

    Given the way that first radio, then television and finally computers and the internet have come to dominate the information marketplace, the use of such cost saving measures was inevitable. Print seems doomed. A more serious problem is the overall “dumbing down” of the American public which has occurred in the last 25-30 years as consequence of the government’s efforts to apply egalitarian, as opposed to merit standards, to education.

    An ignorant, “know-nothing” public plays right into the hands of our increasingly dominant military industrial elite, which seeks to aggrandize its wealth and consolidate into granite-like invulnerability the extraordinary reach of its power from communications, to marketing, to medicine, to finance and even into all three branches of our government.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Newspapers survived radio and movies survived television but the lack of education you pointed to seems to be one of the blows that newspapers can’t recover from.

    The idea that a news service thinks that newspapers will pay for any old words written any old how by any old person hurts, but fits their recognition that too many readers lack the education to know good from bad.

    I don’t like to think of local news as filler. I still miss the weekly paper we enjoyed in our upstate town. It may not have been written by seasoned writers but it was fairly accurate and earnest.

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