Claremont Insider: Sunday Observations

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sunday Observations

There's been a lot of buzz about a local news site called Pasadena Now outsourcing its reporting to India. The website advertised on Craigslist in India for people willing to report remotely on Pasadena issues.

Pasadena Now publisher James MacPherson believes that his two new Indian journalists can cover his fair city from afar by watching city council meetings online and interviewing people by email and by phone.

The Associated Press ran a story on this two days ago, and Foothill Cities picked up on it. There's been a big local response. The LA Times and Pasadena Star-News have both run articles on the matter.

Opinions have been mixed. Many comments we've seen are what you might expect--this is bad; you need local knowledge to understand issues; you can't cover the news without face-to-face interaction. Others, like Jill at Eye Level Pasadena, after the initial shock, were more open to the idea.

Here at the Insider we tend to fall into skeptics' camp. As we've noted in the past, the biggest thing lacking in local news isn't information. It's context. And unless you know the lay of the land, the personalities involved, the history of a locality, the business makeup, the community organizations, the in- and out-groups--all of what makes a community--you cannot possibly begin to accurately describe it.

And then you're just a microphone for whomever to broadcast from. Claremont has suffered in the past from just this sort of non-critical journalism, and it took serious reporters like Gary Scott and, for a short time, Chris Bray at the Claremont Courier to bring some reality to the reporting. It's not surprising that the City of Pasadena would be open to the idea of reporting from half a world away. It's much easier to spin someone whose idea of a journalist is Doonesbury's Roland Hedley.

Pretty soon, we'll have no-context news with ever-changing spin and stories being re-written on the fly. Or maybe we already have that. Remember the 2000 Presidential election and the calling and then non-calling of Florida's vote?

And then there's this reporting about the troubles/festivities in Haiti from the Onion:

Breaking News: Something Happening In Haiti