A London-based newswire service is hiring English-speaking journalists in Mumbai, India, to work "UK shifts" writing financial news, Press Gazette has learned.
The NUJ has reacted to the news, expressing concern about any move to "outsource" journalism jobs to India if it is intended to save money at the expense of quality.
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Thomson Financial, which bought AFX in July this year, has denied that the creation of a Mumbai bureau will lead to the loss of British journalism jobs. It has insisted that it is part of an expansion across Europe and Asia, which will see the number of journalists employed by AFX double from 100 to 200.
Press Gazette discovered the apparent UK journalism outsourcing move after an advert was posted on the MonsterIndia jobs website. It said it advertised for staff to work night shifts to coincide with normal UK working hours, producing "high quality news content". It also stated that journalists will be required to "add editorial value to the content, such that it becomes more relevant to the client's customers" and "use appropriate language skills to understand and source financial information".
The advertisement said candidates should have at least a year's financial journalism/editorial experience, "excellent writing and editing skills", and should have a degree in business journalism. It adds it is recruiting journalists for a "news editorial team" which will be responsible for "writing financial news content, covering the international markets and creating daily routine items".
The name of the employer was not stated on the advert, which was posted by an employment agency. But Press Gazette's inquiries have revealed that the agency is looking for: "Financial journalists or business writers for Thomson Financial, for their livewire called AFXnews.com."
NUJ national newspapers organiser Barry Fitzpatrick said it came as a surprise to him that a UK news organisation was apparently recruiting Indian journalists for newsgathering roles. He said: "We would have a concern if they are just doing this for the sake of cheapness and not necessarily to ensure that quality standards apply. We have heard stories of organisations recruiting subs, but we have not heard of any recruitment of staff journalists in Mumbai, or anywhere else, to service the UK."
Thomson Financial has said it would be wrong to characterise the Indian recruitment drive as off-shoring, but rather as part of its ongoing expansion.
A spokesman said: "Thomson Financial has already invested in AFX. We intend to recruit around 100 journalists across Europe and in India. In addition, Thomson Financial will open new bureaux across Europe, the first of which is now operational in Vienna. Portugal will follow shortly, with Russia and Poland expected in early 2007."
Based in London, AFX describes itself as a "leading European independent real-time financial news agency providing equity-focused business, financial and economic news to the investment community."
Thomson Financial is a "provider of information and technology solutions to the worldwide financial community" and has annual revenues of $8.5 billion.
Thomson Financial director of news content development Andrew Meagher said that the opening of the Mumbai office was part of a major expansion of the AFX newswire.
When asked if the recruitment of Mumbai-based journalists to work for a UK news service should ring alarm bells about outsourcing of journalism jobs, he said: "The bells would be ringing a lot louder if we weren't also aggressively hiring in Europe. We value having people on the ground.
"Having people in India has benefits from a time zone perspective in the same way that we write the Wall Street preview in London because it works better than having someone in North America working at 4am in the morning.
"In India, we are looking to do a lot of the early morning work that can feed into the European market.
"We want people in London, Paris and Frankfurt out there talking to people on the street and adding insight. If they have to spend their day pouring over press releases about changes to corporate structure and things like that, they will have less time to do that — we would rather do that in India."
Reuters began outsourcing some editorial roles to India in 2004. CEO Tom Glocer has described the basic financial news service — breaking news about company earnings and business developments fast — as a commodity which can be provided from anywhere in the world. It is these roles, rather than interpretation and analysis, which are outsourced.
According to a World Association of Newspapers report, Reuters' Indian base in Bangalore has the advantages of having a plentiful supply of English-speaking skilled workers, an excellent telecoms infrastructure and wages and rents one fifth those of Western cities. According to the report, Reuters has a Bangalore content operation of 300, which it aims to grow to 1,500.