Why some media die
Out-sourcing your local news coverage to India
Media writer Dan Kennedy continues to astound with his insightful reporting of our inky trades' descent down the slippery slope to the trash bin of history. Dan's column below is another whopper, this time about an online medium;
The Associated Press reports that the Web site Pasadena Now has decided to outsource coverage of the local city council to reporters in India. In a follow-up, the Los Angeles Times says that one of these distant journalists, based in Mumbai, will make $12,000 a year, while the other, in Bangalore, will make $7,200. They'll watch webcasts of the council meetings, consult relevant documents online and send their stories by e-mail. Who cares if they wouldn't know Pasadena from Rawalpindi?
Pasadena Now editor and publisher James Macpherson tells the Times: "A lot of the routine stuff we do can be done by really talented people in another time zone at much lower wages."
Reacting to Macpherson's quote, Kevin Roderick of LA Observed digs up a terrific rejoinder from an anonymous Pasadena blogger:
That's true, to a certain degree. The type of journalistic coverage McPherson [sic] is talking about really could be done by someone in another country, largely because their "coverage" often consists of little more than glorified press releases and parroting of the local media.
This is really quite a bit worse than the Boston Globe's decision to outsource some circulation and advertising functions to India. Indeed, they're even scratching their heads at the Hindustan Times, observing that "it remains to be seen how reporters would file their dispatches on local news — with all its flavour — from such a distant geographical location."
No telltale byline, but here's a possible example.
Dan Gillmor: "For the money he's paying, he [Macpherson] could hire local bloggers. They'd do it better, with more perspectives — and have the advantage of, uh, being there."
Dan Kennedy is a visiting assistant professor at the Northeastern University School of Journalism, a contributing writer for CommonWealth Magazine and the Boston Phoenix, and a commentator for WGBH-TV's "Greater Boston with Emily Rooney".