Reporting live on Pasadena, from India

I know they say you can do just about anything from your home computer, but c’mon. The absurdity of trying to report on Pasadena City Council meetings from India is just — there are no words. It’s so absurd even AP has picked up on the incredulity (beating, by the way, most of the local news outlets. But I suppose its not like I check India’s Craigslist ads everyday, so whatever.

The publication is, and the editor is James MacPherson:

“I think it could be a significant way to increase the quality of journalism on the local level without the expense that is a major problem for local publications,” said the 51-year-old Pasadena native. “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.”
The first articles, some of which will carry bylines, are slated to appear Friday.

The plan has its doubters.

“Nobody in their right mind would trust the reporting of people who not only don’t know the institutions but aren’t even there to witness the events and nuances,” said Bryce Nelson, a University of Southern California journalism professor and Pasadena resident. “This is a truly sad picture of what American journalism could become.”

It is a shaky business proposition as well, said Uday Karmarkar, a UCLA professor of technology and strategy who outsources copy editing and graphics work to Indian businesses. If the goal is sophisticated reporting, he said, Macpherson could end up spending more time editing than the labor savings are worth.

First off, I personally know of a few editors and publishers who are reading about the plan, rubbing their chins with Mr. Burns-like flair, thinking, “why, that could work! Why didn’t we think of that?!”

Second, I love that the whole brouhaha was a chance for the Star-News’ Larry Wilson to kind of brag about where Star-News alumni are now:

Former Star-News reporter Marshall Allen wrote from the Las Vegas Sun: “One of my colleagues here predicted the first question a Pasadena Now community reporter will ask Bogaard: ‘What is your plan to address all the bicycle traffic?”‘

Former City Editor Kathy Drouin-Keith wrote from her desk at Long Island’s Newsday, where she was enjoying a bag of Pasadena Pecan trail mix from Trader Joe’s: “Just came back from the annual meeting of the American Copy Editors Society, where we discussed how to avoid this very problem. The presenter, Joe Grimm, of the Detroit Free Press, said copy editors have to brand themselves: become ‘the comma queen’ or the geography nerd or the person who knows how to do percentages. Seems the same applies to reporters.”

Third, the whole idea is so obviously harebrained and stinks just a little of a publicity stunt. The dude obviously does not care so much about covering Pasadena as he does care about getting those Pasadena advertising dollars.

When I reported on municipal and school board meetings, half the battle was getting there – and from time to time, the story I had prepared would get trashed in favor of another story I got because there were protesters outside, or a huge crowd had gathered to speak on one item, and so on and so forth. Those are not details you can get from watching the meeting online, where you’re dependent on what the camera is pointed at – and often times, they are not pointed at the audience.

Plus, what the heck would they do about the time differences and the language nuances? I’ve never been to India, but I suspect written and spoken English are completely different from the way we do here. Plus all the journalistic idiosyncrasies? Please. I highly doubt this arrangement will last for very long.

Or maybe it will. After all, all he seems to need are those advertising dollars. They could be typing, blah, blah, blah, BLAH, blah, blah, blah, blah, for all he appears to care.

2 thoughts on “Reporting live on Pasadena, from India

  1. Reuters moved a lot of jobs to Bangalore a couple years ago. Any time a company press release or earnings report goes out over the wires, writers in India put out the initial financial stories on Reuters. With India and China churning out higher numbers of graduates, and their willingness to work at 1/10th the price is greatly affected trades that can be outsourced.

    You would be surprised to learn that a lot of the major ad agencies and entertainment companies now ship talking points to India each evening and have Powerpoint presentations delivered to their inbox by 8am the next day when they arrive at work.

    It is the way of the future, sad to say.

  2. dang Karl. Way to depress me.

    Excuse me now while I go sharpen my wedding decorator skills, before that gets outsourced to India too.

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