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'Your Community. Daily. Online.' (From India)

A California publisher outsources local news.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 11, 2007


PASADENA, Calif. - The craigslist.org job posting was a head-scratcher: "We seek a newspaper journalist based in India to report on the city government and political scene of Pasadena, California, USA."

A reporter half a world away covering local streetlight contracts and sewer repairs?

Outsourcing first claimed manufacturing jobs, then hit services such as technical support, airline reservations and tax preparation. Now comes a new frontier: local journalism.

James Macpherson, editor and publisher of the two-year-old Web site pasadenanow.com, acknowledged it sounds strange to have journalists in India cover news in this city near Los Angeles. But he said it can be done from afar now that weekly Pasadena City Council meetings can be watched over the Internet. And he said the idea makes business sense because of India's lower labor costs.

"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 are slated to appear today.

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."

This is not the first time media jobs have been shipped to India. Reuters runs an operation in Bangalore that churns out Wall Street stories based on news releases.

Macpherson appears to be the first to outsource community journalism.

Within days of the posting, Macpherson said, he hired two Indian reporters, one a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley.

Projected annual cost: $20, 800 for the pair.