Sunday, November 30, 2008

Could Maureen Dowd Live On Thirteen Bucks A Week?

A Penny for My Thoughts?
Published: November 29, 2008

Maureen Dowd pulls a Friedman this week and looks down the long barrel of outsourcing as it moves into the dying and not even convincingly twitching world of newpapers.

The newspaper business is not only crumpling up, James Macpherson informed me here, it is probably holding “a one-way ticket to Bangalore.”

Macpherson — bow-tied and white-haired but boyish-looking at 53 — should know. He pioneered “glocal” news — outsourcing Pasadena coverage to India at Pasadena Now, his daily online “newspaperless,” as he likes to call it. Indians are writing about everything from the Pasadena Christmas tree-lighting ceremony to kitchen remodeling to city debates about eliminating plastic shopping bags.
The Pasadena Now website can be found here, and it’s a bright colorful page with all the bells and whistles expected from a modern Flash driven portal, but it hardly qualifies as a hard news source. The lead story is "Queen Skittles to Reign Over 2009 Doo Dah Parade". It also covers a mall opening and a Christmas tree lighting. But it looks better and cleaner than the home page of some Gray Ladies I could name.

And if you are looking for a Dickensian villain, James Macpherson fits the bill. He pays his Bangalore stringers starvation wages.
He fired his seven Pasadena staffers — including five reporters — who were making $600 to $800 a week, and now he and his wife direct six employees all over India on how to write news and features, using telephones, e-mail, press releases, Web harvesting and live video streaming from a cellphone at City Hall.

“I pay per piece, just the way it was in the garment business,” he says. “A thousand words pays $7.50.”
That would make the gross pay for Maureen’s twice-weekly 850-word essays about thirteen dollars a week. And while you can find DowdHaters convinced that even that would be overpaying her, it’s definitely not going to pay the mortgage on a Georgetown townhome or even dent her shoe debt to Aaron Sorkin.

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