Covering Pasadena from 9,000 miles away

snipshot_e41e8842xsdo.jpgThis has to be the single weirdest journalism story I’ve come across in weeks — and yet at the same time, it makes a kind of terrible, brilliant sense: A news website that covers the city of Pasadena has hired two writers in India to cover the city council in that California town, despite the fact that they are thousands of miles away and have likely never been to Pasadena. James Macpherson, editor and publisher of the Pasadena Now website, hired one reporter who lives in Mumbai and will be paid $12,000 a year, and another who works in Bangalore for $7,200. He will send them copy and have them edit and write it and then file it to him working in Pasadena.

“A lot of the routine stuff we do can be done by really talented people in another time zone at much lower wages,” said Macpherson, 51, who used to run a clothing business with manufacturing help from Vietnam and India.

And these aren’t just Indian workers that Macpherson is trying to turn into journalists. One of the reporters that responded to his Craigslist ad is a former student at the UC Berkeley graduate school of journalism. The L.A. Times story notes that Pasadena city council broadcasts its meetings on the Web, and since India is 12.5 hours ahead of LA, the new journalists will be able to file reports while their boss sleeps.

Terrible? Brilliant? Stupid? Perhaps a little of all three. As Editor & Publisher notes, Reuters already has staffers in India rewriting press releases. My friend Neil Sanderson has more.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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