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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.