Scott seems to be astonished that outsourcing of U.S. jobs to low-wage economies is hurting also members of America’s creative class. In fact, three years ago, the Voice of America (VOA), which is an agency — a propaganda arm — of the U.S. federal government had plans to hire residents of Chinese-controlled Hong Kong to write and edit some of its news/propaganda programs:
American corporations, fleeing high labor costs, often head overseas. Turns out, some federal agencies may be doing the same.The Voice of America, working with ever-tightening budgets, is planning a little outsourcing itself — to Communist China — to save some taxpayer dollars.
Ted Iliff, central news division chief, said the plan, announced at a recent staff meeting, is to take about eight news writer jobs — the slots of people who work the graveyard shift from around midnight to the morning — and move those tasks to Hong Kong. (The people will move to other shifts.) These folks handle the late news writing, then send their stories to be translated by VOA language services into Swahili, Spanish and so on.
VOA says the move could save at least $300,000 in salaries and benefits each year, and would relieve people burdened by working those hours — though we hear most of those affected like their hours and enhanced night pay.
The idea is to use contract employees — expatriate English-speakers in Hong Kong, who would be supervised by a senior editor in Washington.
This didn’t sit well with the rank and file, who argued that a Serbian or Mideast or U.S. political story, for example, would be written from Hong Kong when the expertise is in this country.
And then, of course, there’s the question of what will be written if the Chicoms invade Taiwan. Will there be a story saying, “One million brave Chinese volunteers, responding to desperate pleas for help from their cousins in Taipei, crossed the Taiwan Strait this morning”?
There’s also the question of making sure everyone in Hong Kong has the requisite security clearances.
Tim Shamble, president of the American Federation of Government Employees local, notes it doesn’t seem to make sense that “English news broadcasts by the Voice of America should be written by non-Americans in a foreign country.” Then there’s the notion, he said, of American taxpayer dollars providing jobs for noncitizens overseas.
“This is all a tempest in a teapot,” VOA chief David Jackson said yesterday. “We have operated out of Hong Kong for decades” — though, of course, the Brits were in charge in earlier decades — and “Radio Free Asia has operated out of there . . . with no problem.” What’s more, Hong Kong “is filled with ex-pats and good journalists” [not to mention exceptional restaurants], and they’ll be “supervised and edited by people here.” This is not the beginning of an outsourcing policy but a “unique situation” and a very important news story. “There are no plans to do this anywhere else,” he said.
Well, as they say, trust but verify.
I haven’t seen a follow-up coverage to this story. But I’m told by friends at VOA that it seems that American tax-payers won’t be paying Chinese writers and editors to produce American news/propaganda programs.
But who knows? It’s quite possible that in the near future editorials in the New York Times and other elite newspapers that defend the outsourcing of American job to China and India will be written by Chinese and Indian contract workers living in Hong Kong and Bangalore. That will actually make of a lot of sense.