Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Apu and Rajneesh blow the lid off Watergate

From the Boston Herald story:
PASADENA, Calif. - The 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."
Granted, the world is flat and outsourcing work to far-flung places is good for keeping prices down. (Perhaps not so good for actually getting help from the help desk in a dialect you can understand, but that's another story.) But one might think that there are some jobs that just cannot be done from a remote location, some things that simply require your presence in proximity to the job. Then again, maybe not.

The story in question relates to a web publication called Pasadena Now. Management of this outlet made news last week when it was reported that they are outsourcing news reporting duties to India. Pasadena Now is a very low budget affair, and James Macpherson is trying to beef up his news content affordably. It's the same problem small local news outlets face every day - how do you cover the news and still make a profit? Macpherson seems to have the costs under control - two reporters for about $20k. Here's the ad he ran on Craigslist:

We seek one to two 500-word articles each day Monday through Friday (depending on news that is occuring) PLUS two weekly in-depth Special Reports which focus on the City Council's weekly Council Meeting ... The Council meeting is televised on the Internet...
We do not believe that geographic distance betwen California and India will present unsurmountable problems, and that working together with you will result in your development of a keen working knowledge of this City's affairs. This will result in accurate and authoritative News reports.

Dude, that's a lot of story generation. So you can see what a bargain it is to get the work done for that money. And even more impressive when you learn that one of the people he has hired is a UC Berkeley grad. A thousand a month goes a lot farther in Bangalore that in the Bay Area.

It seems weird and it seems inappropriate, and most of the bloggers on this topic have worked up a nice righteous indignation. But the truth is, this is a fully functional idea. In my own experience I have seen radio news reporters cover meetings by watching video tape and making phone calls, and the essence of the story was conveyed. It doesn't matter if you are 5 miles away or 5,000 miles away when you're working on the phone and by email. Admittedly you cannot get the depth and texture a veteran reporter will provide when covering local news. But does that quality come from being there where a meeting is taking place? Or does it come from knowing the issues and working the beat? If the journalist in India knows his craft, he should be able to get the job done. Not only is it a functional idea, but it seems a heck of a lot better than the "citizen journalism" concept proposed by KFTY-TV in Santa Rosa back in January.

Wonder what it would cost to get somebody to write this blog for me...?


Scott said...

I think anything is better than what was proposed at KFTY. By the way how's that going Burgess?

Bloggers in Santa Barbara are concerned that Wendy McCaw, owner of the News-Press, will get wind of the idea. (www.craigsmithblog.com)

I agree with you. It can be done. Phone interviews can be done from anywhere, India included. Or you can just regurgitate something from another news source and call it yours. Plagiarism? What are you going to do? Try to sue a reporter in India? Good luck!

cat head said...

i charge 12,000 rupees per word.