Local Pasadena news written by … journalists in India

What do you do if you are a struggling website peddling local Pasadena, Ca., news, but can’t afford to hire more U.S. reporters? Outsource the job of covering all things Pasadena to Bangalore. That’s exactly what James Macpherson, publisher of Pasadena Now, has done, offering to pay two India-based journalists he found on Bangalore’s craigslist ...

601953_070511_pasadena_05.jpg
601953_070511_pasadena_05.jpg

What do you do if you are a struggling website peddling local Pasadena, Ca., news, but can't afford to hire more U.S. reporters? Outsource the job of covering all things Pasadena to Bangalore. That's exactly what James Macpherson, publisher of Pasadena Now, has done, offering to pay two India-based journalists he found on Bangalore's craigslist site a combined $20,800 annual salary in order to watch Pasadena City Council meetings on the Internet and cover the local government beat. It's a strategy Reuters has also adopted, hiring Indian journalists to write Wall Street stories based on wire reports and news releases.

Macpherson defends his offshoring move by telling the Associated Press, "Whether you're at a desk in Pasadena or a desk in Mumbai, you're still just a phone call or e-mail away from the interview." He's got a point; a lot of journalism is done from a desk, thanks to technologies that put more information than you'll ever need at your fingertips, and the world's an email or phone call away. But he overlooks a crucial hurdle: simple time differences. I'll be impressed if his new Indian reporters successfully pull off local investigative pieces, as Macpherson intends, from 12.5 hours away. Not impossible, obviously, but harder for fast-moving news stories. But perhaps the news cycle in Pasadena isn't so rushed.

What do you do if you are a struggling website peddling local Pasadena, Ca., news, but can’t afford to hire more U.S. reporters? Outsource the job of covering all things Pasadena to Bangalore. That’s exactly what James Macpherson, publisher of Pasadena Now, has done, offering to pay two India-based journalists he found on Bangalore’s craigslist site a combined $20,800 annual salary in order to watch Pasadena City Council meetings on the Internet and cover the local government beat. It’s a strategy Reuters has also adopted, hiring Indian journalists to write Wall Street stories based on wire reports and news releases.

Macpherson defends his offshoring move by telling the Associated Press, “Whether you’re at a desk in Pasadena or a desk in Mumbai, you’re still just a phone call or e-mail away from the interview.” He’s got a point; a lot of journalism is done from a desk, thanks to technologies that put more information than you’ll ever need at your fingertips, and the world’s an email or phone call away. But he overlooks a crucial hurdle: simple time differences. I’ll be impressed if his new Indian reporters successfully pull off local investigative pieces, as Macpherson intends, from 12.5 hours away. Not impossible, obviously, but harder for fast-moving news stories. But perhaps the news cycle in Pasadena isn’t so rushed.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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