Friday, May 11, 2007

Mumbai calling ...

Well, the other shoe has dropped. A news outlet has decided to outsource coverage of its local city government - to India.

PasadenaNow Editor and Publisher James MacPherson says it's easy to oursource now that city council meetings are broadcast on the Internet. Quoting the AP story: "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."

He's hired a couple of Indian journalists for a projected annual cost of $20,800.

There is the predictable criticism. And I can't say I'm a big fan of the idea -- especially as MacPherson is executing it, which I suspect does not include actually having a local reporter available to dig into the deeper stuff.

But on a more abstract level, I don't totally condemn the concept. We have too many high-value journalists doing too much scut work. If that kind of mindless transcription stuff (and that includes the standard mindless meeting story I read too often) can be outsourced, good. But only if that frees up resources for local reporters to actually dig behind the scenes. The overall result might be fewer reporters, but if the ones that remain are used to the best of their training and abilities, then there might be some benefit.

Sadly, as noted here before, I think too many publishers will take the Pasadena Now route. The stories from India were supposed to start appearing today. Is it Freudian that the first one -- about the city's arts director resigning -- was a blank?


Alan Mutter, the Newsosaur, has his usually good overview of such subjects.
Over at Lost Remore, Liz Foreman has a post on how soon it will be before broadcasters start outsourcing:
  • It’ll go from no one does it to everyone does it.

  • It’ll go from “we don’t know who to hook up with” to every consultantcy has an Indian firm they do business with and I bet these firms start showing up at RTNDA/NAB in a year or so.
Read the comments at Freakonomics. Not a lot of shoulders to cry on there.

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