BUSINESS

Pushing the limits of outsourcing

KEN MACQUEEN June 4 2007
BUSINESS

Pushing the limits of outsourcing

KEN MACQUEEN June 4 2007

Pushing the limits of outsourcing

KEN MACQUEEN

PasadenaNow.com serves its suburban market on the northern fringe of Los Angeles with the kind of hyperlocal news ignored by big city dailies and newscasts. If a sparrow falls from its nest, you will read about it in Pasadena Now—quite a feat since its newest city hall reporters work halfway around the word—in India.

The reporters, one in Mumbai and one in Bangalore, will cover Pasadena council, which is broadcast on Internet-streaming video. They’ll also write features and profiles—based on email interviews and ideas forwarded by James Macpherson, the site’s editor and publisher—for a combined annual salary of about US$20,000. “A lot of the routine stuff we do can be done by really talented people in another time zone at much lower wages,” says Macpherson, who learned to outsource while running a clothing business with a product line made in Vietnam and India.

U.S. reporters are horrified. “Excuse me,” writes Barbara Ehrenreich in HuffingtonPost. com, “isn’t this more or less what former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was fired for—pretending to report from sites around the country while he was actually holed up in his Brooklyn apartment?” Still, the potential savings are undeniable.

Macpherson’s help-wanted ad, posted on the Indian version of Craigslist, said he believed that “geographic distance” shouldn’t be insurmountable, “and that working together with you will result in your development of a keen working knowledge of this city’s affairs.” That generated such an avalanche of applications and interviews he hasn’t yet had time to train his hires. Still, as the India-based thehindu. com reports, he’s planning to hire half a dozen more Indian reporters. Outrageous, until you consider that most every story on Macpherson’s idea, including this one, was also written without setting foot in Pasadena. M