As we posted recently, The Source just celebrated its first anniversary. I wanted to use the occasion to write a little bit about the blog and a few other related issues that have been on my mind.
I’m frequently asked what I think of The Source and my answer is pretty much the same: “it’s a work in progress.” I’m pleased with the work we’ve done, but there’s still lots more we could do. In particular:
•More coverage of more Measure R projects — even the ones in the early planning stages. Measure R is the blueprint for what Los Angeles County may look like over the next 30 years and we need to cover it aggressively before all the big decisions are made.
•More coverage of the bus system, which carries the majority of Metro customers each day across a sprawling county.
•A more speedy blog. We’ve had some tech issues that sometimes cause sloooooooooow load times. We’re working on it.
•More humor. Seriously. I wrote a year ago that government doesn’t have to be boring, but at times I’ve felt my own writing veering toward government-ese, the dreaded place that has given rise to such phrases as “locally preferred alternative” and a long list of mind-bending acronyms.
The biggest question going into this job was this: how would Metro handle being criticized on its own website? There’s no point pretending the agency is perfect and I’m pleased that Fred and I have been given a long leash to post material that isn’t always flattering to Metro (see Twitter Tuesdays in any given week). I credit those who run the agency for having the guts to let us do it and I think that makes us somewhat the rare bird among government blogs, even if we don’t go as far as some readers may like.
One tough issue I didn’t anticipate was the coverage of accidents involving Metro buses or trains. Oftentimes, we do get information fairly quickly. But I’ve been reluctant to say much, given that we’re a party in the accident and it feels inappropriate for us to say much beyond how the accident impacts service. Most often, I think it’s best left to the media to explain what happened.
In fact, the most vexing issue I’ve had to grapple with is the media.
I never planned on using The Source to respond to media stories about Metro, but that’s exactly what I’ve done on a few occasions when I have felt that stories were unfair or omitted key facts or background.
And I have to admit I feel more than a little squishy about it, perhaps in part because I was a reporter for many years. The Source was not created to replace media coverage of Metro because there is no substitute for outside scrutiny of government. Nor do I want to discourage media coverage by responding to each and every slight, real or perceived.
Still, it has been distressing at times to read media stories that do not even try to be fair or accurate — even when accuracy wouldn’t get in the way of criticism. Because the media has the capability of reaching a lot of eyeballs, I feel like there are times when we are within our right to respond to fully explain the issues. With great discretion, we’ll continue to do so.
That said, I hope that The Source can be useful for journalists interested in covering the agency. We try to touch on a lot of issues in any given week and I want reporters to use The Source to generate story ideas and to feel free to contact us. Metro has major projects that will open each year for the next several years and there’s a lot of important decisions being made that will impact your commute — and they’re all worthy of a public discussion.
Finally, I wanted to thank everyone in our audience for giving us a chance to explain what’s happening at Metro. In our reader survey posted last week (click on the tab at right to take it), we asked if readers trusted media or government more — and I was surprised to see the answers were split.
I’m pleased that for all the rhetoric and punditry out there about the size of government, taxpayers of Southern California are interested in how their government works and are willing to engage it through this blog. We’ll do our best in the next year to honor both your dollars and trust.
Editor, The Source