Onion peelings


So, what do you do when the light turns blue with orange and lavender spots?

Sometimes, you know, I wake up and suddenly I’m in a bad movie.

Or a Monty Python sketch.

Or, worse yet, a cliché.

And it does no good to pinch myself, or mutter, “One, two, three, wake up!” No, no. We’re stuck here, you and I.

Fuck.

Okay, work with me here. So, yes, Maureen Dowd is an opinion, or “op-ed”, columnist. And, yes, she writes for the New York Times. And, well, yes, she is, after all, Maureen Dowd, and take that however you will.

There must be something I’m missing. Really. I mean, how does her November 29 column not sound like something invented in the minds of the not-quite inimitable crew at The Onion?

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.

“In brutal terms,” said Macpherson, whose father was a typesetter, printer and photographer, “it’s going to get to the point where saving the industry may require some people losing their jobs. The newspaper industry is coming to a General Motors moment — except there’s no one to bail them out.” He said it would be “irresponsible” for newspapers not to explore offshoring options.

He said he got the idea to outsource about a year ago, sitting in his Pasadena home, where he puts out Pasadena Now with his wife, Candice Merrill. Macpherson had worked in the ’90s for designers like Richard Tyler and Alan Flusser, and had outsourced some of his clothing manufacturing to Vietnam.

So, he thought, “Where can I get people who can write the word for less?”

And a lot less. $7.50 for a thousand words, Mr. Macpherson told Dowd.

This is disturbing. But perhaps even more so is the idea that he’s apparently some sort of pioneer:

But then in October, Dean Singleton, The Associated Press’s chairman and the head of the MediaNews Group — which counts The Pasadena Star-News, The Denver Post and The Detroit News in its stable of 54 daily newspapers — told the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association that his company was looking into outsourcing almost every aspect of publishing, including possibly having one news desk for all of his papers, “maybe even offshore” ….

…. Macpherson feels “vindicated,” but also “conflicted” about the idea of having an American newspaper industry fueled by Indian labor. “I mean, I am an American too,” he said. “I had two ancestors in the Revolutionary War. My mother was in the Daughters of the American Revolution.”

It’s not easy being a visionary, he said: “I have essentially been five years ahead of the world for a long time, and that’s a horrible address at which to live because people look at you, you know, like you’re nuts.”

Something about satire. Something about death. Something about reality being stranger than fiction.

And something about the Universe being a practical joke of the general at the expense of the particular.

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