Here's a novel job opening.
wants to hire a reporter at $24 per hour
on a part-time temporary basis to cover the agency through the end of this year. Here's the gist of the deal from Metro's announcement
The reporter will attend a variety of community meetings and events about growth management and community investment priorities and provide objective, written news coverage of those meetings and events. The reporter also will take photographs, and when appropriate, may be asked to produce short, simple video clips of people offering short comments. Metro will provide for use of cameras and computer equipment if needed.
The announcement goes on to say that "Because Metro is interested in providing the public with transparent, objective and informative coverage of its work, the agency only will provide style, spelling and other editorial support, but will not edit for content. The reporter is expected to use professional news judgment to report accurately and objectively on what occurs at the meetings and events. Metro also may ask the reporter to produce similarly independent feature-oriented content."
Metro communications director Jim Middaugh says the move is an attempt to get some coverage of the agency's meetings and events on its web site. Middaugh's point is that Metro gets little regular coverage from traditional media–with its many cutbacks—or from newer media. He says this hire is an attempt to get some independent reporting about what Metro is doing, and that people can judge for themselves how independent it turns out to be.
"There's nobody watching us really," Middaugh said. "The goal of this is transparency ... The intent is to get out information even if it's critical."
Metro tried something similar last year when it temporarily hired
one of The Portland Mercury's
interns to write for the web site at $21 per hour.
There is precedent for an organization to hire somebody to cover it. The National Hockey League's Los Angeles Kings last year hired
a reporter to cover it. One obvious difference between the Kings' decision and Metro's is that the Kings weren't using public money to make that hire. And closer to home, then-Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler last year proposed hiring somebody with public dollars to use Facebook, Twitter and other new media to help the county communicate with citizens. Amid criticism over that idea, Wheeler withdrew
Middaugh acknowledges he hasn't sorted through all the issues that might arise from the hire at Metro. Can the part-time person be employed elsewhere? Or what if, for example, the reporter independently uncovers a councillor smoking pot in the bathroom or gets a good tip about misspent money at Metro?
"The intent was for meetings but I'm not opposed to letting someone follow a hot tip," Middaugh said.
Asked why one of Metro's communications staff couldn't handle this task, Middaugh said it was a fair question but responded the staff has enough work of its own.
Perhaps the new hire's first report could be how Metro can afford his/her position.