Thursday, July 5, 2012

Local News from Faraway Places

This being an election year, I avoid the news because I can't stand the 30-second sound bites of meaningless jabber and the pages of print given over to interpretation of those meaningless sound bites.  However, before I went on my hiatus, I did notice a change in my local newspaper.

It was subtle. I wasn't sure what specifically was different, just that something was.  Then a colleague sent me an article about how local news has been outsourced to foreign writers.  (Read the article here.) 

This explains it.  What I noticed was an alternation in the paper's style. 

Every language has its nuances, structures, and cultural references. It is one reason why a friend of mine who immigrated to the US from Central America as a girl still struggles for understanding even after twenty-five years of being in the US.  She was not raised on Flip Wilson and missed out on Hotel California. Any joke or story based on tidbits from earlier times has no meaning for her.  We might as well speak Russian as to throw in a reference to the dead man's hand in poker. 

So it is with stories written by people who do not speak conversational American. Foreign writers are not literate in American culture. They may write perfect English but it lacks the rhythm and style of someone from northern Illinois. 

I make no comment here about the good or bad inherent in outsourcing our news gathering to a foreign country.  I do however voice concern that stories prepared by foreigner reporters may not communicate the news appropriately simply because the writers might incorrectly state the information. To be specific, how can someone in the Philippines understand the meaning of a Lake County, Illinois reference to Bulldozer Bob? 

There is so much more to communication than simple words.  In the media corporations' efforts to protect the bottom line, outsourcing appears to be a great way to save money. I just hope the true meaning of the news doesn't get lost in the process.

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