BOB GARFIELD: James Macpherson publishes the website Pasadena Now, and needed a couple of people to cover city council meetings and such. But his budget was limited, so he advertised on Craigslist – in India. He hired one woman who already writes for some other American websites and another who graduated University of California Berkeley's journalism school. But they live – in India. So how are they supposed to report on Pasadena? Well, says, Macpherson, they're not actually reporting. JAMES MACPHERSON: I'm really not calling them reporters for the following reason: To me, a reporter is someone who, in a firsthand way, experiences an event, knows the people on the ground, is present on scene. In this case, these individuals really are going to be writers. They are going to receive assignments from me, background from me, research from me. BOB GARFIELD: In some cases they will be, for example, watching a cable access version of a City Council meeting. They're not just taking minutes, are they? I mean, they will be making journalistic decisions, like what's most important and what's irrelevant and so forth. JAMES MACPHERSON: The individual who watches the webcast of the city council meeting will, in fact, be reporting on what occurred. As to what is most important or not, that's my editorial decision and I'm not going to leave that to a writer, whether that writer lives in Pasadena, South Pasadena or Mumbai. [LAUGHS]
I'll be very involved in the process. But the actual time to sit and grind out the words, boil it down, rephrase, I haven't got that sort of time. But I know what I want and I know when I like what I see. BOB GARFIELD: Here's a quote for you: "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."
That's from a Pasadena resident, Bryce Nelson, who teaches [LAUGHS] journalism at the University of Southern California. How do you react to Professor Nelson's assessment of your experiment? JAMES MACPHERSON: Well, I have a couple of reactions. First of all, surprisingly, he'd never spoken to me. He never discussed with me what I will and will not be doing. Really, this is the conclusion of me trying a number of things. I tried to use local college interns. That didn't work for a number of reasons. I've tried to find local freelancers who can cover. I've tried a number of things before I struck upon this idea.
But I will say this. I do know for a fact that some local reporters watch the webcast of the city council meeting, too, so what I'm doing perhaps isn't that different really from what's going on anyway. BOB GARFIELD: Now, you've been on a little media tour of your own the last couple of days, since news broke of your plans. Have you been on Lou Dobbs yet? This is pretty much his hobbyhorse – outsourcing of American jobs. Have you had your chance to be raked over the coals by His Dobbsness? JAMES MACPHERSON: Well, I've had the chance to pass on that generous offer [BOB LAUGHS] because, really, I think there are broader issues that should be discussed in an intelligent, considered way. What I did was simply for a local community website. The real issue is the bigger picture, and that, of course, is what has aroused everyone's passions. If James Macpherson can conceive this in Pasadena, why, certainly Sam Zell can conceive this in Chicago. So we have to really figure out what this means for the big picture.
I know in Pasadena I'm going to be able to provide better coverage, coverage I could never even afford before, and to that extent I think this could be an innovation that helps my local citizens. BOB GARFIELD: James, thank you so much for joining us. JAMES MACPHERSON: My pleasure. Thank you. BOB GARFIELD: James Macpherson is editor and publisher of Pasadenanow.com.