As a journalist, I'm uncomfortable watching the dumbing-down of news amid the rising din of information. The big sore spot for me now is the mainstream media's response to offshoring. It's an election year; the media is always salivating over the next chunk of meat; and jobs, both blue- and white-collar, are heading overseas. It makes for a perfect storm of demagoguery the likes of which we haven't seen for some time.
The plain truth is that offshoring has always been with us, especially in an economy known for "creative destruction." A famous saying posits that if you can buy it for less than you can make it, that's the way to go.
Clearly it's a sensitive issue for our readers, who have the intellect to understand the nuances on both sides of the issue. Sure, it makes sense to ship out work to save money. But when your job's in the balance, emotion and intellect are sharply at odds.
Offshoring has been happening in this industry since I was in diapers (cloth ones at that). Charlie Sporck, it's said, was one of the first proponents. First the labor-intensive jobs-assembly, distribution, test-shipped off to Asia. Now it's the intellectually intensive jobs that are at stake.
Still, as you'll read next week in our Globalization of Electronics coverage, it's not as bad as it looks. The same managers who have slashed costs by moving some design jobs offshore also understand the limitations. The top of the food chain, as you'll hear from the Hoover Institute's Henry Rowen, starts with innovation.
But it's a problem when a popular television anchor, CNN's Lou Dobbs, starts demonizing American corporations that send jobs offshore. In our sector, that's pretty much everybody-although Dobbs is not intellectually rigorous enough to list every single company in our universe on his list (www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/lou.dobbs.tonight/).
It's bad journalism. It's dishonest; it ignores history. And now John Kerry has drunk some of the Kool-Aid, calling those who run the companies cited by Dobbs "Benedict Arnold CEOs."
Anything for a union vote, I guess.
This issue will fade, though in the meantime, the demagoguery does nothing to allay real fears about job shifting.
Fear is paralyzing. But knowing the history, understanding the underlying issues and then acting accordingly are empowering.