Indian journalists write well … about Pasadena

Last month, Passport blogged about an online newspaper in Pasadena, California, that hired two journalists in India to cover the meetings of the Pasadena City Council, which are broadcast over the Internet. Many U.S. reporters are understandably outraged. They believe that important nuances will be neglected if Indian reporters don’t understand the local culture and institutions, and aren’t ...

Last month, Passport blogged about an online newspaper in Pasadena, California, that hired two journalists in India to cover the meetings of the Pasadena City Council, which are broadcast over the Internet. Many U.S. reporters are understandably outraged. They believe that important nuances will be neglected if Indian reporters don't understand the local culture and institutions, and aren't physically present to report the news. Washington Post reporter Gene Weingarten has even written a humorous article in which he attempts to cover a meeting of the legislature of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, after viewing a webcast, to show how ridiculous it must be to report from a hemisphere away. 

Last month, Passport blogged about an online newspaper in Pasadena, California, that hired two journalists in India to cover the meetings of the Pasadena City Council, which are broadcast over the Internet. Many U.S. reporters are understandably outraged. They believe that important nuances will be neglected if Indian reporters don’t understand the local culture and institutions, and aren’t physically present to report the news. Washington Post reporter Gene Weingarten has even written a humorous article in which he attempts to cover a meeting of the legislature of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, after viewing a webcast, to show how ridiculous it must be to report from a hemisphere away. 

But just how well are the two Indian journalists—one of whom is a journalism graduate from the University of California, Berkeley—actually doing? I visited the website of the newspaper and found a couple of decently written articles by Nisha Ramakrishnan, whom I confirmed was one of the Indian journalists. They were nothing like the joke of an article that Weingarten wrote. Perhaps an Indian journalist can write better about city government in the United States than a top U.S. journalist can write about state government in India?

Still, the offshoring of journalism can only go so far. When it comes to politics, much of the juicy news comes from the informal discussion that happens before and after official meetings, when the webcam isn’t recording. If someone says something confusing or shocking at a meeting, it’s important to be able to chase the person down right afterward and ask for a clarification. And how in the world would you be able to write about a local fire? For these reasons, American journalism won’t die. I say let the experiment with offshored journalism continue.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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