Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Reporting gets outsourced and APA men in media

Asian American NYTimes guest columnist Atul Gawande offered up a thought-provoking op-ed on abortion today called Let's Talk About Sex. It's hidden behind a firewall, but here are the choicest bits:

One statistic seems to me to give the lie to all the rhetoric about abortion, and it’s this: one in three women under the age of 45 have an abortion during their lifetime. One in three. All politicians — Democrat and Republican — say they want to make abortion at least rare (as Giuliani did in Wednesday’s debate). On, this they could reach agreement. But it’s clear they haven’t been serious; the U.S. has 1.3 million abortions a year.

...More children are, in fact, getting this message. Pregnancies at age 15 to 17 are down 35 percent since 1995, according to federal data; one-fourth of the drop is from delaying sex, and three-fourths is from increased use of contraceptives. Today, just 7 percent of abortions occur in minors.

Fact two follows from this: Abortion is mainly an adult problem. Forty-five percent of abortions occur in adults ages 18 to 24; 48 percent occur after age 25. Most are in women who have already had a child. The kids are all right. We are the issue.

Why am I so psyched about the NYTimes having what is to my knowledge the first Asian American guest columnist if they aren't even a full-time contributor? Because Atul Gawande is a fantastic writer - he writes with nuanced precision. He writes cool, clean lines, fraught with the weight of wrestling moral ambiguities. His book Complications (along with The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down) is one of the must reads for young pre-meds and medical students. He is a Thinker and a Doer. He is the model minority personified, a Chair of surgery at Harvard Medical School, a practicing surgeon, a writer. But he also loves listening to rock n roll in his OR and his skills aren't just limited to the sci-tech realm.

Second, guest columnist positions can turn into full-time gigs - Barbara Enrenreich did a guest gig last summer which turned into a fulltime position (it ended abruptly but that's another story.) And the Times remains the "paper of record" - the one paper that brides seek to get their wedding announcements in, the one that politicians seek to be quoted in, the one that the President's war apparatus seeks to put out propaganda in. In a field of influencers, it reigns supreme. (Despite the Jayson Blair and Judith Miller scandals, and their blatantly wrong and racist handling of Wen Ho Lee's persecution.)

Which led me to consider how many other Asian American men are in prominent positions at the NYTimes and other outlets. Sewall Chan, nicknamed "one of the hardest working reporters" there, recently switched over from the Metro beat to blogging.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has crossover visibility in Newsweek and CNN. Fareed Zakaria is one of the go-to international relations analysts for Newsweek. Peter Bhatijia is the Executive Editor of the Oregonian. We are still underrepresented in the mainstream media, but these are some pretty impressive figures.
In other news, a Pasadena paper has decided to outsource reporting on City Council news to India. The time difference between CA and India is about 12 hours, but the publisher believes it's doable because proceedings are all streamed online. A lot of people in service industries think that their jobs are safe but technology keeps evolving and you might not care when the steelworker's job goes, but then wham! Radiologists face an uncertain future since the scans can be read by people in other countries for cheaper. And this is how the middle and upper classes begin to care about globalization.

Is the outsourcing of reportage the natural extension of blogging? Currently, bloggers like Abu Aardvark have become the first stop resource for academics, reporters, and for goings on in the Middle East. Theoretcally, I can read up on local elections in Japan, become well-versed in the local dynamic, and give my own thoughts on these issues. If I get enough exposure, I become a source for others. The authors of one of the most popular and well-read state political blogs - Archpundit (Illinois) has done picked up and moved to another state.

I'm not defending or justifying anything here, just wondering if it wasn't inevitable.

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