Saturday, May 12, 2007

Anonymous blogger removes posts after threatened by city with suit


Article Launched: 05/12/2007 12:03:08 AM PDT

Blogger gives in to Pomona
E-mail from attorney causes removal of posts on city manager's exit

By Wendy Leung,
Staff Writer
Inland Daily Bulletin / Ontario, Calif.

Calling it a fight with Goliath, the Foothill Cities blog has removed controversial postings about Pomona City Manager Doug Dunlap after it received a cease- and-desist letter from the city attorney. In an e-mail sent Thursday, City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman called the Web postings "lies and falsehoods" and demanded the content be removed. The city attorney threatened legal action if Foothill Cities, which is written by an anonymous blogger, failed to comply.

On Friday, Alvarez-Glasman said the removal of the postings was "a move in the right direction", adding: "The objections were to the blog and the chatter that was republished as a result of the blog," Alvarez-Glasman said.

A series of postings last month printed rumors that Dunlap was being forced to resign among other accusations. Dunlap announced his retirement April 16 and has said that he had been mulling retirement for the past year. Dunlap could not be reached Friday for comment. In his e-mail to the Web publication, Alvarez-Glasman wrote, "The accusation that Pomona's City Manager is being forced to resign could not be further from the truth."

But the blogger, who writes at, stressed that the accusations had always been clearly identified as pure rumor. In an e-mail correspondence on Friday, the blogger wrote, "The city is clearly trying to bully us, and is in the wrong, but we backed down - at least for now - because we don't want to have to deal with a lawsuit." The blogger called Alvarez-Glasman's demand "stifling." "It means we have to start watching our backs every time we post something critical about city officials," the blogger wrote.

Foothill Cities is a political blog about cities in the Inland and San Gabriel valleys. Alvarez-Glasman said on Friday the city supports First Amendment rights but that the Web publication also has a duty to print responsible journalism. "The credence that one puts behind this publication is no greater than the National Enquirer," he said.

Staff writer Frank C. Girardot contributed to this report.

Staff writer Wendy Leung can be reached by e-mail at, or by phone at (909) 483-9376.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Local news reporting outsourced to India - Los Angeles Times


Local news reporting outsourced to India

A news site hires two to cover Pasadena from afar. That helps a shoestring budget go further.

By Alex Pham, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 11, 2007

When is local journalism not really local? When it's about Pasadena and written by someone in India. James Macpherson, editor and publisher of the Pasadena Now website, hired two reporters last weekend to cover the Pasadena City Council. One lives in Mumbai and will be paid $12,000 a year. The other will work in Bangalore for $7,200. The council broadcasts its meetings on the Web. From nearly 9,000 miles away, the outsourced journalists plan to watch, then write their stories while their boss sleeps ÿÿ India is 12.5 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time. "A lot of the routine stuff we do can be done by really talented people in another time zone at much lower wages," said Macpherson, 51, who used to run a clothing business with manufacturing help from Vietnam and India.

So, on the Indian version of Craigslist, he posted an ad that said in part, "We do not believe that geographic distance between California and India will present unsurmountable problems, and that working together with you will result in your development of a keen working knowledge of this city's affairs." Dozens replied. One of the two chosen had attended the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Rob Gunnison, the director of school affairs there, is dismayed. "It just seems so fundamental to journalism to be there," Gunnison said. "I still can't quite believe it's not a hoax."

It's not. Macpherson plans to run his first batch of outsourced stories Tuesday. The Pasadena native runs the website, which he said gets 45,000 visitors a month, on a shoestring budget from his condo with help from his wife, a data entry worker and two interns. Macpherson plans to hire half a dozen more Indian reporters. He'll add some local flavor by doing interviews, then e-mailing the recordings to India. "When you instant-message someone in Mumbai, it's like looking over her shoulder," he said.

Larry Wilson, editor of the 30,000-circulation Pasadena Star-News newspaper, scoffed. "To pretend you can get the feel and the culture of a town as complicated and interesting as Pasadena by e-mailing and doing things over the Internet is nutty," he said. Ann Erdman, spokeswoman for the city of Pasadena, thinks the approach is a little odd. But "as long as they get their facts correct, I'm a happy camper," she said.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Associated Press story summarizes findings of Washington News Council report on Spokane paper's mall coverage


Probe Hits Spokane Paper's Long-Disputed 'Shopping Mall' Coverage

Published: May 07, 2007 10:15 PM ET

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- The Spokesman-Review newspaper violated some journalistic principles in its coverage of a controversial $110 million downtown shopping mall development owned by the same family that owned the newspaper, a new study found.

The investigation, requested by the newspaper, was conducted by contract journalist Bill Richards for the Washington News Council. It looked at the paper's coverage of the mall project between 1994-2005.At issue was the paper's coverage of the financing of River Park Square, a downtown shopping mall owned by the wealthy and prominent Cowles family, which owns the newspaper and has many other business interests in the region.

"The newspaper did not investigate thoroughly in a timely manner and report promptly and forthrightly the financial structure of RPS," the report, which took up two full pages in Sunday's editions of the newspaper, concluded. "The newspaper suppressed financial information of importance to decision-makers and the public at-large, but potentially unfavorable to developers," the report concluded, saying the Cowles family may have indirectly influenced coverage.

Publisher W. Stacey Cowles disputed the suggestion his family influenced coverage. "At no time did I or any other member of my family direct any coverage or directly edit any coverage," Cowles wrote to readers Sunday. "The editor and the newsroom made and continue to make their own decisions about RPS and all other news coverage. "

Current editor Steve Smith, who joined the paper in 2002, sought the report. Most of the paper's coverage of RPS occurred during the era of his predecessor, Chris Peck. "The council's findings are troubling, and in my view, they illuminate as nothing else has done why some in our community questioned our RPS coverage and why that story so wounded our credibility," Smith wrote. While noting that the publisher disputed the findings of influence, Smith wrote, "in the newsroom, we accept the findings. "And we sincerely apologize for not adequately living up to our journalistic standards," Smith wrote.

River Park Square, anchored by a Nordstrom store, was intended to reverse the decline of the city's core. The project was built with a combination of private and public money, which drew criticism as an inappropriate use of public dollars intended for urban renewal. The controversy exposed fissures between Spokane's haves and have nots, but the mall helped spur a renaissance of downtown.

The News Council report was particularly harsh on a since-discarded "no surprises" policy in which the owners were informed of articles about them before they were published. The report said The Spokesman-Review suffered the potential for self-censorship of the news product by reporters and editors because of the family's involvement in the mall. It said using the same attorney on related business and newsroom matters created the perception of a conflict of interest and should not occur.

The report suggested the newspaper create a "Cowles Co." beat to keep tabs on the various business interests of its owners. "If there is a moral to this RPS story, it is that the publisher-editor relationship got in the way of the public interest in the reporting of a sequence of events of great importance to Spokane's citizens," the report said.

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