The Media Reaction

Offshoring vs Outsourcingg





It is hard to judge the media reaction in an isolated context, since, after all, they only cover what others have said and done. At the same time, the media is highly influential in forming the opinions of the general public - of which I am a member. I have attempted, however, to gather as unbiased an analysis of the media's reaction to offshoring as possible.

There are a far greater number of negative accounts of outsourcing and offshoring in the daily media than positive ones. Every time an American factory closes and relocates to some third-world country, "the media provides blanket coverage of the alleged threat" to all American workers and indeed to our entire economy and social structure.[6] According to CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, offshoring threatens not only our pockets but "the American way of life." The entire American Dream is at stake![9] Alarmist numbers are frequently cited - and while some of the responsibility for this goes to those who pronounce the figures in the first place (frequently politicians or political interest groups), the media is not wont to question these as much as they might.

There are two types of scenarios that routinely prompt the media to raise a stir about offshoring. The first is economic: when a manufacturing plant, call center, or the like closes to relocate abroad, it follows logically that the vast majority of such coverage will show offshoring in a negative light. The media reports - often feature stories - are bound to be filled with tales of thousands of workers laid off, with few prospects of getting a new job as good as the one they just had to leave. Likewise, a sluggish economy is often blamed on outsourcing. A New York Times article from last June, discussing the disappointing employment numbers from the previous month, noted that it just "highlighted what has apparently become a permanent decline in factory employment as a result of rising productivity and increased outsourcing of production to low-wage countries."[10]

The second general type of situation in which offshoring debates figure prominently in the media is when it becomes a political issue. Most recently, outsourcing came up in the context of the Bush Administration's attempt to outsource the management of several major US ports to Dubai World Ports, a company based in the United Arab Emirates. Pundits, both Republican and Democratic, accused Bush of "outsourcing our... security."[11] After being seized upon by Congress and the media, the transaction predictably did not go through. In the meantime, however, the public was left with yet another negative impression of outsourcing. Similarly, during the 2004 presidential campaign, offshore outsourcing exploded to the front of newspapers as Kerry and Bush tossed accusations back and forth. For months, Kerry, intent on proving a failure of Bush's, cited alarming figures and anecdotes, until Bush was forced to concede that offshoring might have some negative consequences too, at least in the short run, although he continued to tout its long-term benefits. "When a presidential election year coincides with an uncertain economy, campaigning politicians invariably invoke an international economic issue as a dire threat to the well-being of Americans" noted University of Chicago political scientist Daniel Drezner. "Most of the numbers thrown around are vague, overhyped estimates."[6] Heavy media covereage of political squabblings thus leaves Americans with an impression of offshore outsourcing that is much more dire than the facts necessarily warrant.

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