What “Outsourced” Could Have Been

Things you can learn about in this fascinating piece about an American trying to get work at an Indian call center:

NBC's "Outsourced" could have dug into to some of this stuff instead of the schmaltzy, insensitive garbage it covers instead.

  • The FEC sued a group called the Republican Victory Committee for falsely claiming to represent the Republican Party. They were t outsourcing fundraising to Delhi.
  • Callers were instructed on geography: “Australia is known as the dumbest continent. Literally, college was unknown there until recently. So speak slowly.”
  • It costs 500 rupees just to take the class on how to apply for jobs in call centers.
  • There are allegedly seven types of customers: eccentric, arrogant, bumpkin, quarrelsome, prudent, assertive, sweet-spoken.
  • And oh so much more

With first-person journalism like Marantz’ piece, the question is asked over and over: how “real” can your experiences be if you have a passport and the means to leave? Marantz made a point of staying in the work hostels with other callers and forgoing the comforts of the ex-pat community. But when your name is Andrew and not Arjun, and you’re on a 3month assignment, the tedium of the day-in, day-out call center lifestyle and the desperation of professional dead-ends is difficult to capture.

It’s got some of the same notes as the debate that raged last week over Mac McClelland’s PTSD piece. As long as Western journalists aren’t claiming that their experience on the ground is identical to the subject’s (which neither of them were), then I don’t see what all the fuss is about. You can still report on injustice and suffering while acknowledging your own privileged position.

Related Post: Another spectacular long-form piece, this one about three teenagers from Tokelau lost at sea.

Related Post: Alfie Kohn explains why improving test scores may not mean improving education.

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2 Comments

Filed under Really Good Writing by Other People

2 responses to “What “Outsourced” Could Have Been

  1. Amanda

    ooh, I can’t wait to read his piece. And I agree, unless you’re being exploitative and appropriating the experiences as your own without admitting that you’re not in the exact same position, what’s the big deal. Gloria Steinem’s piece on Playboy bunnies was amazing & groundbreaking & illuminating regardless of the fact that she had a job as a journalist and knew she didn’t have to keep on doing the job.

    • Totally agree, Amanda! And the Gloria Steinem is a great example. In many cases, people who are actually living that life (as opposed to faking for a few months) don’t have the means or training to tell the story. Isn’t that the job of the journalist?

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