Firm defends outsourced copy editing

News & Tech, in its December¬† issue, looks at outsourcing of newspapers’ editorial functions, such as copy editing and design. Last month, the Toronto Star proposed to contract out about 80 copy editors’ jobs.

Toronto’s plan, which N&T says could be abandoned if unions make concessions, would send the work to Pagemasters, which “already produce[s] more than 10,000 editorial pages a month for papers that include the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age in Melbourne and the New Zealand Herald.”

Stewart Muir, managing director of Pagemasters North America, explained the Pagemasters concept to the magazine. Its “‘near-sourcing’ alternative offers publishers benefits, especially as newspapers wrestle to cut costs,” he said.

“‘It has a proven track record,’ he said of the firm’s services, citing in part the New Zealand Herald, which has used Pagemasters for layout and copy editing for two years.

“‘Lots of North American newspapers want that service mentality. And it’s not just the newsroom. The reason they have outsourced ad production and printing and other operations is because they can get the results they need.’

“Muir acknowledges that editorial outsourcing remains a contentious topic, but said Pagemasters does not farm out work to overseas workers who may only earn a third of what a Canadian or U.S. copy editor might make.

“Instead, Muir said Pagemasters opens up production centers in areas close to its clients, and hires trained journalists who are paid equivalent wages and benefits. Cost savings come from Pagemasters policies and procedures designed to optimize how copy flows throughout the day.

“‘Journalist wages in a Pagemasters shop are totally comparable’ to the newspaper, Muir said. ‘It’s about delivering efficiency.

“‘We’re talking about the most precious part of a newspaper endeavor, the creation and editing of editorial material. Nobody is talking about just farming this out.'”

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