The Source turns five years old: how are we doing?

I glanced at the calendar this morning and realized five years had suddenly rumbled by. It was on Oct. 20, 2009, that The Source debuted on Metro’s website. At the time, I wrote this:

Local media has taken more than a few hits (I was one casualty although I prefer to look at it as the long-awaited liberation of my soul ). At the same time, the Internet has provided government a way to directly speak to taxpayers without having to go through the media. No longer can government complain the middleman got it wrong or wasn’t interested in doing a story.

Readers will naturally wonder if an agency can honestly write about itself. Here’s what I can tell you: The agency still very much wants and needs press coverage and invites and needs outside scrutiny. As for the Source,  I’m not here to invent some new form of propaganda, nor am I the agency’s new inspector general. The goal is to honestly and fairly explain how Metro works.

As I write this, we’ve had 7,333 posts, more than 26,000 reader comments and have been viewed on more than one million different computers. As far as I can tell, we’re certainly one of the most frequently updated government blogs out there — the result of a lot of teamwork and hard work on the part of my colleagues at Metro — and a lot of us have come to believe that providing info on the blog and Metro’s social media is an essential service.

Since five years is a significant milepost, I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk a little bit about the blog (don’t worry–I’ll be asking for your feedback in a sec). A few thoughts:

•I’ve done my best to avoid the “everything is awesome” approach to the blog. While the blog is certainly not independent media, we’re not traditional PR either and I hope that readers find the information on the blog to be credible. We try to include outside viewpoints about the agency — i.e. the daily headlines linking to media stories about Metro, some positive and some bit — and point readers to staff reports that include a wealth of information about Metro’s projects and programs.

•I do hope that The Source has proven helpful for journalists, even if it’s just calling attention to an ongoing issue or upcoming project that makes for a good story. I sense there’s an uptick in coverage of the agency. Some of that is because there’s a lot going on with so many transit and road projects under construction. Some of that (I think) is because the agency has been proactive about getting the word out via social media and traditional media channels.

•As many of you know, we initially started the blog without a comments section out of concern that the same few people would dominate the comment board and/or post erroneous information. That was my mistake that we corrected, although I’m eternally frustrated that the comment board often seems to be dominated by the same few people, who are all men (as far as I can tell). Interestingly, we get a lot more feedback from a more diverse crowd on Metro’s  Twitter feed. That’s a good place to look and get a handle on the day-to-day concerns of Metro’s customers and see some of the back-and-forth between customers and Metro’s social media team.

Enough of my blather.

This is, of course, your blog that is funded by your taxes. Besides expressing a huge thank you to everyone for taking the time to read the blog, I’d also like to know how you think we’re doing. Below are a few survey-type questions, but please feel free to expound on any points (or anything else) on our comment board!

Cheers,

Steve

 

 

 

32 replies

  1. Congrats Steve. I enjoyed your work at the LA Times and this site is valuable as well as you do a good job with it.

  2. You’re doing fantastic, Steve. I wouldn’t be half as informed about going-ons in transportation today without you, both in and out of Metro (Transit Highlights every day, please!).
    I think the best improvements could be made bringing other people into the discussion- more open online forums, with people at Metro who can actually do things, like Mr. Leahy or Bob Holland.
    Happy, 5th birthday, The Source!

    • Yo F;

      Thank you — glad you’re finding the blog useful and we’ll definitely try to get some other voices on here going forward!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. The great thing about The Source and any online news site and social media is not the articles themselves, but it’s actually that the comments section because you really get to see a big picture of how Angelenos come from different backgrounds who all support transit and share different views. The core is that a lot of Angelenos are interested in transit and they all get to share their experiences on what’s good or bad with Metro and bring in other ideas by sharing their transit experiences in other cities all across the world. The last one is the most informative because of our multicultural identity in LA; we have people from all over the world living here in LA who can relate and give us their own transit experiences from their country so we can hopefully be able to shape a better city. No other city in the world has whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians and Middle Easterners all living side by side.

    You never know this in LA because we’re not really a “talk with someone about issues” culture. But on the internet, people are free to express themselves, across different cultures and backgrounds and you get to see that many people share similar thoughts on what Metro is doing right (more transit projects), what Metro is doing wrong (renaming stations after living politicians), what Metro needs to improve (TAP website and fare evasion) and what people disagree (a better fare system).

    As of today, all of the comments left on The Source are far more effective in collecting and painting the picture of LA transit riders than speaking at the podium at Metro HQ. I hope the politicians are reading this because this is the best place to see what policies they are doing are getting/not getting support from their constituents.

    • I agree that the comments individually and collectively can be pretty great. I still don’t see the kind of diversity that I would like on the comment board. I don’t get the sense that many women comment here (hard to tell sometimes as many readers don’t use their real names) and I am concerned having too many of the same voices may be scaring new commenters away. That said, on choice issues (station naming, fare increases), there is no shortage of people commenting.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. I’ve been following you guys from the beginning. Before I would just visit metro.net and go to the news tab and prey every time there would be something new lol. Glad you guys are here. Thanks for your good work.

    • Hey Manny —

      Thanks much — I’m pleased to here you’re finding the blog useful. Thanks for reading!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. Has it been 5 years only? Wow, Thanks Steve, I think ive been following your writing since about 07-08. I really love The Source, so much I wish transit moved quickly so the articles would have ground breaking info everyday. But between social networks, email, and news. I visit here once a day. I appreicate the fairness and openness of this place. Ive seen it get a bit trolly over the years, but that comes with growth of any message board. To five more years! Cheers Steve, and thank you!

  6. Since you took over the employees have lost a good source of information on what is happening in the company (ie. births, deaths of fellow workers) since we move from shop to shop this was a good source of info but that has been lost!!!

  7. Congrats on five years. This blog is a fantastic resource. You and your colleagues do an excellent job remaining approachable and informative without pandering or preaching. It’s definitely appreciated

    • Thank you Scott! Pandering and preaching are definitely no-nos. We most often try to put the information out there and let folks decide for themselves.

      best,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Thank you Arthur! Can’t believe five years have flown by. Helps that there’s a lot going on here. Back in ’09, there were still some pretty slow weeks. Not anymore: there is almost always something that needs our immediate attention.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  8. Congrats and here’s to the next five years to The Source, as the new projects are built to completion.

  9. I think it’s been a fantastic source of information. I think you really have done a great job of avoiding “everything is awesome” that one might expect from an official blog like this. Really looking forward to the next five years.

    • Thanks Andy! Yep, should be crazy times between project construction, rail openings, ongoing studies, possible ballot measure, etc. Good to be busy, for sure.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  10. Congratulations! I, too, followed your coverage while you were at the LA Times and was very excited when you started this blog at Metro. I love the daily transportation headlines. I read almost all blog entries, but almost never leave comments (yup, I’m a lurker). Anyway, keep up the good work!

    • Hey Allen;

      Thanks much and appreciate you reading my blather for a long time now 🙂 No worries about lurking — there are many sites I read almost daily and never leave a comment either — but always feel free to chime in. More diverse views, the better.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  11. Now if you could make the source easy to get to on metro,s App . Currently you open the app go to more then go to the Mobil we sight then to the source. That is too many steps!