Copy editing an American newspaper from India

About a year ago, the website Pasadena Now shocked the American media by hiring two reporters in India to coverOCRegister Pasadena, Calif., City Council meetings. Now a more prominent California media outlet, the Orange County Register, is trying to find out whether copy editing can be outsourced to India.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — An Indian company will take over copy editing duties for some stories published in The Orange County Register and will handle page layout for a community newspaper at the company that owns the Pulitzer Prize-winning daily, the newspaper confirmed Tuesday.

Orange County Register Communications Inc. will begin a one-month trial with Mindworks Global Media at the end of June, said John Fabris, a deputy editor at the Register.

Mindworks' Web site says the company is based outside New Delhi and describes its work as providing "high-quality editorial and design services to global media firms … using top-end journalistic and design talent in India." [Link]

The Register's editors may have been enticed by the words "high-quality" and "top-end," but what really got them drooling were some other words: "low-cost" and "dirt cheap." For what they pay one copy editor in California, they can probably hire three copy editors in India, each of whom can hire three assistant copy editors.

It makes good business sense, right? Well, it depends on whom you ask. The stockholders and highly paid executives of media companies may love the idea, but the hard-working American journalists whose jobs are evaporating may want to book a ticket to India to visit Mindworks Global Media and strangle the "top-end" talent.

Many will of course question whether the Indian copy editors are truly "top-end," whether they can truly do the job as well as their American counterparts.

Applicant: "Is the job still available?"


Recruiter: "Yes, it's still available. Do you have any copy editing experience?"

Applicant: "Well, I have lots of experience in copying. Only a little bit in editing."

Here's what Anne Wayman has to say on the Poynter Institute's website:

I guess I'm not surprised… certainly hope someone tracks the errors that show up and the ultimate failure of this test… sigh [Link]

Dr. Rajiv Medanki, on the other hand, offers a view many Indians probably share:

Why is it that when Americans want to sell without restriction cars, computers and soft drinks to the rest of the world it is called "free trade", but when Indians sell communication skills and software expertise to them it is called "job outsourcing" ?

I think the point about free trade is that people are free to get the best value for the commodity they want to buy or sell. You do the things you are good at, and we will do likewise. We Indians did not complain when Coca Cola put our biggest soft drink manufacturer out of business, so quit whining when our English-speaking graduates compete with your copy editors. [Link

In other words: Don't complain. Our copy editing skills are at least as "high-quality" as your Coke.


If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Hi Melvin
    Well Written
    Recently while i was scooting for a publisher for my first book i came across a review on a website ( talked about publishers regularly off shoring their work to India and others. And I quote-
    “Off-Shoring. Some POD vendors have “off-shored” some of their operations to other nations such as India, China, and the Philippines. This means that while the sale of services to authors are handled by Americans, the people who provide those services to authors — and with whom authors interact — might be citizens of other nations whose English language skills may vary from excellent to mediocre.”
    Understandably, the site avoided controversy by saying ‘excellent to mediocre’, but one can read between the lines, can’t we?
    And this coming from Americans who have raped English language left, right and center. Ironical. I guess all American authors worth their salt should feel happy that Indians, who follow Queen’s English, will now edit their work and won’t let them end sentences with prepositions anymore.
    Meanwhile do have a look at my post ‘Regrettably Indian’ at

  2. Jeanne-Elise says:

    Um. Ironical? That’s ironic.

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