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New approach to covering local news? I don’t think so.

Major newspapers from around the country have discovered a serious byline problem. They include dailies from San Francisco, Chicago and Houston, among others. It seems staff reporters did not write certain local stories in these papers.

They were outsourced to a company called Journalic. In an effort to hide how they did business, Journalic decided to use fake bylines to disguise the fact that people from the Philippines wrote some of these local stories. The writers were paid as little as $4 per story.

I cannot say strongly enough (well, I guess I am) there are so many things wrong with this concept of reporting—from ethics to quality control—media executives should be running far away from this company. Unfortunately, they have not.

Brian Timpone, a former television reporter and community newspaper owner, founded Journalic 6 years ago. He knew there was a need for local information on police arrests, sports scores, real estate sales and other items that can be quite time consuming to report.

So as newspaper executives continued to look for ways to cut costs, but still focus on local news, Journalic became an option for larger papers struggling for a solution. The reasoning was staff reporters would then have more time to cover “important” stories.

This worked because Journalic reporters would comb the Internet looking for local information depending on who had contracted them. These bits of information would be sent to the publication for publishing. Right now they work with dozens of newspapers around the country.

But Journalic reporters are never part of the communities they report on. And in an effort to cut their own costs, much of the work was outsourced to other countries. The company now boasts 60 full-time reporters and 200 freelancers as they attempt to expand coverage.

Once again this is just another classic case of media executives following the flock on something that saves money, yet knowing this is a short-term solution with no longterm results. In other words…readers will figure it out. There’s also this little issue of ethics, trying to pass off local news written by people who work thousands of miles away.

Another area that gets lost in this shuffle is the contacts a local reporter will make when placing calls, checking events and confirming information while talking to residents and city officials. The bottom line is, it takes resources to cover local news accurately and there’s no real way to get around it.

It’s no secret that reporters must have a stake in the community they cover in order to bring quality journalism to readers.

 

Brenda Bolinger heads to Pitzer

If you read her final column last week, you know that today, Wednesday, is Brenda Bolinger’s last day at the COURIER. During her 10-year career she has made significant contributions to our coverage of Claremont.

Brenda is best known for her feature and obituary writing. She has a way of making her subjects feel at ease, giving her stories a descriptive, real life feel. Brenda is a prolific writer who generally was challenged to write stories under 1000 words. Although I would chide her about this, it’s a testimony to how complete and thorough her work is.

Brenda’s work and approach in dealing with grieving families who wanted to publish an obituary in the COURIER was second to none. She had a way of being sympathetic and understanding, yet would not hesitate to ask difficult questions if necessary.

When I first started to work as publisher over 4 years ago, Brenda kind of reminded me of a union steward for our employees. She was always particular about making sure I understood how long an assignment would take and the important roles the staff played in producing the COURIER. But once she got to know me better, those conversations eventually faded away.

Brenda still holds the COURIER record for the longest sentence, using the most semicolons. I’m not exactly sure how many words were included, but I know she will never be topped.

I could go on and on. But will stop and say I wish you well Brenda Bolinger. We will miss you.

 

New faces at the COURIER

Although change sometimes can be difficult, we at the COURIER enjoy seeing new staffers ready to meet the Claremont community. Former COURIER managing editor Sarah Torribio, has signed on as our staff education and obituary reporter. She is an experienced reporter and obviously well versed with Claremont issues.

Jessica Gustin started Monday as our new classified marketing manager. She is a Claremont resident who will also help us with our website advertising and other endeavors.

There will be more extended profiles of these new staff members in the Saturday paper and website.

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