Outsourcing Journalism?

Pasadena Now, a news Web site devoted to local coverage of the Pasadena region, has taken the term “outsourcing” to new heights, hiring two reporters in India (one of whom graduated from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism) to cover the goings-on of the Pasadena City Council from 9,000 miles away. The goal, according to editor and publisher James Macpherson, is to provide quality content for the 45,000-reader site while still sticking to its shoestring budget. The L.A. Times was quick to cover the story, and now Newsweek has stepped in with an interview with Macpherson, who reveals that his overseas reporters will be responsible for writing twelve 500-word news articles plus two 700-word features per week.

No surprise, the project has caused substantial buzz in the media community, with a number of industry insiders opposing the concept of outsourced journalism. Here’s what USC journalism professor Bryce Nelson told the A.P.:

“Nobody in their right mind would trust the reporting of people who not only don’t know the institutions but aren’t even there to witness the events and nuances …This is a truly sad picture of what American journalism could become.”

Still, as the AP’s Justin Pritchard notes, this isn’t the first time that a journalism job has been outsourced to India — Reuters regularly runs Wall Street articles written in its Bangalore office. Nor is it the first time a writer/reporter has “covered” a local community from miles away — New York Magazine‘s recent outing of University of Illinois freshman James Kurisunkal as the author of “ultra-insider” New York society blog Park Avenue Peerage, while not exactly traditional media, is one notable example.


How is this different from a foreign correspondent picking up all his snippets from the usual news sources such as Reuters and AP?


Interesting...not surprising, not really news...not really freakonomics...but kind of interesting.


I love how the outrage and "sad commentary" is in the, ahem, media... I don't remember such backlash when the jobs being outsourced was customer service people, or circuitboard assemblers...
Yeah, only MY job can't be duplicated overseas.


this is why the business model for the news is a failure- instead of fostering strong public institutions to keep the citizenry informed, we get a push for cheaper production to maximize profit- ironically, the web may be the future bastion for independent journalism


Thomas L. Friedman exposed this in 2005 with "The World is Flat." Maybe Stephen could walk over to Tom's office and see if he has anything interesting on the topic.


This story is a big "so what?"

On NPR on Sunday morning, they were bemoaning the fact that -- with the closure of the Washington Post's office -- there were no American media with any correspondents in Canada. (I wouldn't think that would include AP, but they seemed pretty insistent on "nobody".)

Canada's considerably more important than the Pasadena city council, I would think.

I don't get the impression that the reporters who would ordinarily cover suburban city councils have either lived in the area for any length of time OR have a long background in journalism OR intend to stay covering the suburban city council for any length of time. It seems more like amateur night (I live in a suburb of 50,000 people; Pasadena is about 135,000).

To me, it seems possible that an outsourced journalist can do just as well, on a dollar for dollar basis, as a kid just out of j-school who really wants to be somewhere else as soon as possible. Do such people really "witness the nuances"? Woulde they recognize a nuance if it spit in their eye?

At least this outlet is making some attempt to cover the news, rather than just print press releases.



I am actually doing research on this topic for a graduate paper at USF.
Can anyone email me more info on the subject please?
My USF email is abidanec@mail.usf.edu

Thanks and have a great day!

J S Martin

It's all too obvious that Justin is so biased that any article he allegedly composes is infected with 2nd and 3rd hand opinions and hard core left wing nonsense. Why bother?


Outsourced journalism and/or campaign staff could have the one benefit Americans don't yet realize is the threat to America - of outsourcing any job, and the need for news reporting, and impartiality.

If America can't deliver excellence for the money, perhaps the world can...to end the drive toward inequality, and Citizens United corruption influences that aid an incumbent crony capitalist system.

The world stands to gain much more than it would lose by outsourcing, for a failing American democracy is not good for the world any more than it is for America.