Pasadena Local News Site Postpones Coverage by Reporters in India

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A local news Web site’s editor who hired two reporters in India to cover suburban Pasadena said he’s been so overwhelmed by handling 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 have 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.

Last week he hired the reporters and wanted to have started posting their stories on pasadenanow.com 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 happened.

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 pasadenanow.com 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.

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