The Role of the Press in Transparent Governing


March 5
Women’s City Club

Photos are here

Attention citizen journalists: Stand up and start a news blog to shine a light on local government, or share your information and news tips with a contact at a trusted local newspaper, radio, television station, or online magazine. At the very least, just show up to comment and ask questions.

That was the message from renowned journalists and communications authorities in a panel discussion on the topic “Let the Sunshine In: The Role of the Press in Transparent Governing,” at the March 5, 2015, League Day.

We have become curators of our own news in an age of shrinking newspapers and expanding Internet communications, said Val Zavala, moderator of the panel and vice president of news and public affairs at KCET and anchor of SoCal Connected.

“Citizen reporters have changed the landscape,” said Ann Erdman, former public information officer for the City of Pasadena for twenty-one years. She sees a need for a responsible citizen blog in Pasadena to counter the gadflies and conspiracy theorists found on some local blogs. “Meanwhile, news consumers need to do their homework,” she said.

Anyone has access to public documents, said Karen Foshay, an award-winning investigative reporter now with Al Jazeerra News Network’s newsmagazine America Tonight. Two major obstacles, she said, are knowing what to ask for and the cost, which can be as high as $6,000, and $800 is standard in Los Angeles.

Erdman gasped, saying that violates the California Public Records Act. She said a big part of her job as public information officer had been to educate city officials and staff about that act and how to provide clarification and accurate information.

At the same time, public pressure can produce results, said Noelia Rodriguez, chief communications officer for Metro Los Angeles public transportation system and partner with Caltrans. The 710 Freeway report is an example. Citizen efforts and those of Assemblymember Chris Holden, she said, sped up the new report.

As for citizen journalists, Pasadena Media offers classes and has a studio for their use.
“Everyone can be a citizen journalist if they choose,” said Keri Stokstad, CEO for the nonprofit operating company overseeing the City of Pasadena’s cable access television stations. KPAS, she said, is 100 percent government; the Arroyo Channel is 100 percent for the public.

But what’s a news consumer do who doesn’t have time to “dig”?

Foshay recommended public radio, PBS, KCET, and respected local newspapers.

Erdman praised the online newsmagazine Pasadena NOW and the blogs and

Rodriguez said, “E-mail can get you directly to the reporter.”

Stokstad suggested Crown City News, a show on the Arroyo Channel.

Zavala, in conclusion, recommended: “Show up and start a buzz in the community.”

—Jackie Knowles