Matthew Norman: Beware of the Bangalore Express
Monday 08 December 2008
It is the deepest instinct of those marooned in the darkest of dark days to search for the light at the end of the tunnel, and with help from The New York Times's Maureen Dowd, I believe I may just have found it.
Unfortunately, it's the Bangalore Express coming to flatten us all. Ms Dowd describes a development so surreal that, not long ago, it would have been dismissed as crass satire. It concerns a certain James Macpherson, publisher of the online local "paper" Pasadena Now, who has outsourced all the journalism that fills his site to India. "Glocal News" is Macpherson's term for the practice of paying Indians to cover everything from local politics to the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in that California town.
He and his wife sacked their seven staffers a year ago, and advertised on Craigslist.com for six subcontinental replacements, to whom they now email press releases and give access to political debate through live video-streaming from a cellphone at City Hall. One of them, in the southern town of Mysore, says that she never previously regarded herself as a journalist, quite possibly because she wasn't one, and thought that the Rose Bowl was a foodie event.
The generous fee for their work is a little less than a fiver ($7.50) per thousand words, and, needless to say, this splendid innovation is already catching on in the States. The head of one media group (who moonlights, encouragingly enough, as chairman of Associated Press) publicly toys with creating a unified newsdesk for all his local papers and siting it offshore. Even more needless to say, the trend that hasn't made the easterly journey across the Atlantic has yet to be born. The Lord knows which genius will pioneer it over here, but one of these days, David Montgomery will surely return from his European adventures to repurchase the Mirror Group, and then the merriment can begin.
Even Madder Mel
One titan of the press whose work could never be outsourced is Melanie Phillips. There simply isn't another one like her on the planet, and the odds are that there never will be. Mel has been on comparatively sedate form in the Daily Mail lately, but on her blog (hosted, curiously, by the Spectator's website) she scintillates as seldom before. Her current primary obsession involves Barack Obama's secret plan to facilitate the destruction of Israel, and fans of her work (and which of us isn't?) may enjoy the lengthy letter to the Spectator site in which Chris Patten unleashes a point by point dismantling of one particularly lively recent post. As ever with Mad Mel, whose apology for propagating the nonsense about the MMR jab that created the current measles epidemic is expected imminently, inconvenient facts inconvenience her barely at all.
She has mentioned Obama's appointment, as his chief of staff, of Rahm Emanuel, son of an Israeli and pretty much a Zionist himself, in passing. But as West Wing fans will recall from Leo McGarry's minimal Oval Office role, that's a very minor job in a US administration, and you can't linger on red herrings for long when the siren call of paranoid dementia fills the eardrum.
Apologies for last week's cock-up. It wasn't a major howler by my own impeccable standards, because this column is filed on a Friday. Even so, well knowing the perils of the longish lead time, it was naive to express concern, in the light of the Gordon Ramsay adultery story, that the Rachel Royce piece about being married to a love rat (Rod Liddle) – the one we so enjoy, on average, every other month – hadn't had its obligatory run-out. It duly appeared on Saturday, so sorry for misleading you.
Thanks be to Gaunt
The loss of his radio bully pulpit has had little impact, praise be to the Almighty, on the written work of my favourite columnist. In yet another tour de force, Jon Gaunt treats Sun readers to his thoughts on the Shannon Matthews case, positing that the way to help the children of the underclass is to impoverish them further by denying their parents any welfare benefits at all. It's an intriguing theory, argued with typical cogency, and anyone who can spy the tiniest hole in the logic is way ahead of me. So, well done, Gaunty, and keep up the good work!
Don't stop the press
Daily Mirror Exclusive of the Week goes to the splash about Paul O'Grady being bitten by an adder that was snoozing in a log that he put on the fire. A crackling brush-with-death front page, then, barely undermined at all by the revelation, carefully husbanded for an inside page, that, far from the presenter being rushed off in an ambulance and pumped full of adrenaline, "medics told him he merely needed to keep an eye on the swelling".
This is the Mirror Group's finest medical splash, according to several leading professors of journalism, since a late Nineties People effort about an ex-EastEnders actor with an entirely benign lump on his back.
Sir Terry traduced
On vaguely similar lines, finally, comprehension problems afflict the editor of the Mirror's online publication. "Wogan Axed" and "Terry Dumped As Eurovision Host" were front-page straplines on Friday, with links to a report beginning thus: "Sir Terry Wogan has quit as the BBC's Eurovision Song Contest presenter ... A source close to the Radio 2 DJ said, 'It is true that Terry has decided to call it a day. He felt the time was right for a change'." Axed and dumped, indeed. This is just the sort of cretinous, low-level deception to which we can wave goodbye when Monty outsources everything, so roll on, the Bangalore Express.
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