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Day-to-day newspaper reporting, blog-style

While vacationing in my apartment last week, I stumbled upon a newspaper story about the language and tone in the blogosphere being less censored than that in the traditional media. Nothing especially new there; it’s part of a larger theme that social discourse grows coarser by the minute.

But it did get me thinking. What if that let-'er-rip mentality connects with another rumored development in the online world of information: namely, that in the years ahead, regular people -- not professional journalists -- might provide more and more actual content for newspapers?

I reflected on all the city councils and school boards and other public bodies I’ve covered over the years. How would a non-journalist cover them, especially if unfettered by the niceties we mainstream types try to observe?

For better or worse, you might someday read something like this from a saucy blogger down the block:

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Went to the City Council meeting last night. That’s three hours I’ll never get back. What a bunch of weenies they turned out to be.

They started out with the Pledge of Allegiance. What is this, fourth grade?

Then a local pastor gave a prayer. Thank God he kept it short. For the record, all five council members kept their hands folded and their eyes closed.

For some reason, the next thing was public comments. You’d think they’d want the public to speak after the council took action, but I guess the idea is to get the speakers out of there as quickly as possible. Eight or nine people spoke -- I lost count because I started daydreaming after the first three -- and most of them had some kind of beef with the city. One guy asked why the left-turn light at one intersection didn’t light up until the cars from the other direction got a full green. He said most intersections let the turning cars go first.

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What a dope. Of course, nobody said that. The mayor acted like he was taking careful notes of everything the guy said, as if he was describing a crime scene. I’d love to see the mayor’s notepad. My guess is he was drawing funny pictures of the guy. The mayor said he’d ask someone on the staff to look into it and said he would “very much appreciate” getting the man’s address. I bet he would.

A lady said her cousin was visiting from the Netherlands and she wanted to introduce her to the council. So, she comes to the microphone and every council member asks about her local government at home, what she’s been doing in California. On and on for five minutes. Couldn’t this have been done at an IHOP after the meeting? I cleared my throat loudly about five times, just to try to move things along, but nobody picked up the hint.

After that dog-and-pony show ended, the council got down to the real business. Frankly, a lot of it looked suspicious. They cried and moaned about a cost overrun on a project -- some kind of a retail deal, I think -- somewhere over on the north side of town but then went ahead and approved spending the money for it. Pretty obvious to me, if you get my drift, that somebody’s got their hands in somebody else’s pocket.

This kind of stuff dragged on and on. I came away with a couple conclusions. First, the mayor is a total dweeb and a wimp. Instead of telling council members to keep it short, he let them rattle on. If I was running the show, the whole thing would have been over in about 45 minutes.

My other conclusion is that the new council member is a windbag. It was his first official meeting and I lost track of the number of times he said, “I’d like to ask staff to prepare for me. . . .”

I hope none of the staff is planning on taking a vacation any time soon.

I counted 11 or 12 other items. Every one of them was like some new dental procedure we had to sit through. All kinds of technical mumbojumbo about easements or invoices or wastewater. There was something about a “misappropriation” but everybody started running their words together so it was impossible to understand them and after a while they called for a recess and went into a room with the city attorney. They never did explain that one.

Then they adjourned. I was disappointed with the whole meeting. It seemed like a colossal waste of time and not a way for people to spend an evening, which explains why maybe all of five people were there at the end.

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Well, that’s my report. I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be going back. Look for my next report to come from my kid’s soccer tournament.

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Dana Parsons’ column appears Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at dana.parsons@latimes.com. An archive of his recent columns is at www.latimes.com/parsons.


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