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Outsourced reporting plan stalled

Posted at 5:11 PM on May 14, 2007 by Bill Wareham

The plan by a Pasadena website to have reporters in India cover local news has stalled, according to the latest from the Associated Press:

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A local news Web site's editor who hired two
reporters in India to cover suburban Pasadena said he's been so
overwhelmed by reaction to his plan that he had to postpone
publication of their first stories.

James Macpherson said he hasn't found the time he hoped to train
one of his new staffers to cover Monday night's City Council
meeting, which is shown live on the Web.

"We've been prevented from doing that due to the attention that
we've received," Macpherson said Monday.

He hired the reporters last week and wanted to have posted their
stories on by now. One based in the Indian
financial center of Mumbai will watch the meetings, which often go
past midnight, and use the time difference (early morning here is
early afternoon in India) to write summaries so readers in the city
near Los Angeles can log on Tuesday mornings and find out what

Macpherson said he's working with the reporters on stories he
intends to post before next Monday's meeting. As a Pasadena native,
he said, he knows the city and its players and will ensure stories
written from afar are fair and accurate.

Many newsrooms already are facing job and coverage cuts and
Macpherson's plan struck a nerve when The Associated Press first
reported its details Thursday.

Since then, Macpherson has spoken with more newspapers, TV and
radio stations than he can name and hasn't had time to do interview
requests from as far away as Australia and France. Hundreds of
responses nearly shut down his e-mail account and vaulted from obscurity to a destination for those wondering
what was going on.

Reaction has fallen into two camps.

Many within journalism have pilloried the idea of covering local
news from half a world away - or suggested it must be a publicity
stunt. As Larry Wilson, editor of the local Pasadena Star-News
paper wrote in a column, how could an Indian reporter know whether
a council member was joking when he made his remarks?

Others agree with Macpherson, who pointed out that desk-bound
reporting is commonplace in an increasingly lean news industry.

One of the skeptics quoted in AP's original story was Bryce
Nelson, a University of Southern California journalism professor
and Pasadena resident. He said reaction to the story was striking,
and not just among reporters.

A reader wrote Nelson remarking that a story about an anti-war
march in a Northern California newspaper bore little resemblance to
the actual event - perhaps because the reporter had written the
story without being there.

This story has received heavy play in no small part, I'm guessing, because journalists take this personally. I'm not sure the fine citizens of Pasadena care nearly as much.