Let it be said at the outset that the Pasadena Now Web site is a handsome piece of work. Further, let's agree it's a feather in Pasadena's cap that its city council meetings can all be accessed in streaming video. Now we come to the crux of the matter, the help-wanted ad that has journalists in a tiz: Pasadena Now's announcement that it seeks "a newspaper journalist based in India to report on the city government and political scene of Pasadena, California, USA."
Coverage of Pasadena from Bangalore. Hmm. It can be done, but should it be? As public editor Timothy McNulty said in the Chicago Tribune, "Stenography is not news reporting," though it's often mistaken for that. "How many readers and reporters believe that news reporting is just about what is said publicly at a council meeting or a press conference?" he wondered in his column, which found the Pasadena Now initiative more impish than wise.
"Serious news reporting is about sources and contacts, about interpretation and analysis," wrote McNulty. So it is. And the newspaper game is about being the place in town people who need information or a hand can turn to. They might have a problem as simple as an undelivered newspaper. Call the Tribune about that these days and if you get through at all you'll talk to someone in Manila.
The world is going places we don't necessarily want to be. We can fight change or we can embrace it. If Pasadena Now proposes that coverage of Pasadena city council meetings become an international project, then let the world roll up its sleeves and take it on. We can all adopt Pasadena. We can follow its city council along with that stringer in Bangalore and e-mail our reports to firstname.lastname@example.org. Collective wisdom is not stenography. Pasadena could become the first city that, truly, the whole world's watching.