Sometime back, a major internet service provider (you know, the one who polluted the environment with all those discs of its software during the 90's -- the internet provider you outgrew) purchased a company we shall call Poach.com. Poach is hiring about 300 people around the country to put up cookie-cutter local news websites.
It didn't really concern us until a few weeks ago, when we saw that Poach was looking for an editor for an Altadena edition. Yes -- not a Pasadena/Altadena edition. Specifically an Altadena edition. They wanted someone who could operate a laptop, snap pictures, listen to the police scanner, knew the local community, business, and politics .. basically, someone to do the job we were doing already.
So we weren't surprised when Poach called us last week, offering us the position. To reinforce it, someone from a local Poach site in Silicon Valley also gave us a call and a sweet, sweet siren song.
Now, it was tempting to have the opportunity not to hustle for a buck and have more resources at hand, not have to worry so much about software problems, have a few more dollars at our disposal. But the temptation didn't last long.
One: We looked at a few Poach sites. They're very attractive. And yet there's not much to them. Our coverage on most things is better. They have a lot of sections, but many of them are placeholders, i.e. "This will be a list of restaurants." What stunned us is our little one-horse operation actually has more advertisers than any of the Poach sites we looked at.
But two, and most important: being part of Poach in the end didn't appeal to us, because of you, our readers. We think we serve you better than any Poach site could. Because we don't answer to any corporate masters, Altadenablog has the ability to be nimble in its coverage, to switch gears if needed. We saw that last week, when Santa Rosa was closed down by a suicidal man in his vehicle with a gun. We could turn our coverage to that in real time, receiving reports in real time from people who lived there, who heard gunshots, who were plastered to the floor awaiting the "all clear." Don't think Poach could have done that.
And we don't think a Poach site could have been as useful to you during a crisis like the Station Fire. The greatest value to our coverage came from you, our readers, who became our field team. And we were improvising like mad that whole time -- yet we weathered the fire very well together. It earned us some recognition from the state assembly, the county supervisors, the LA Times, and many hundreds of readers who hit our tip jar during the crisis. Thank you all. That would never have happened with a Poach site.
A Poach site also probably wouldn't let us spend as much time and space as we do on the only-in-Altadena stories -- the Fork in the Road, the bear and cougar appearances, the lost and found pets, the lunch trucks, scanner frequencies, and the wanderings of Bill Westphal, for example. It wouldn't give allow us to give space to all those interesting Altadenans who contribute photos and stories, like Bill, Chris Considine, Michele Zack, and others.
Besides, we've been telling people to buy locally and support local businesses for almost three years now, and what would we be if we shut this down to create a second rate version of ourselves at the behest of a corporation that has no real interest in this community, except to extract dollars from it?
We explained it to them like this: Altadena has a Coffee Gallery, but not a Starbucks. We have worked very hard, with greater and lesser degrees of success, to get an understanding of the town we call home and try to convey that to you every day on Altadenablog. We don't think a cookie-cutter "Newsbucks" would be the same.
So we thank Poach on one hand for basically telling us to step up our game, become a better news site. We have some things in play that will make this a better place to come for your Altadena news (not the least of which are our new correspondents, Laura Monteros, Devon Pettengill, and Erika McCarden, along with a couple of others in the wings you haven't met yet). We'll be doing more features, improving the look of the place, become more professional-looking. We're also going to be actively seeking more sponsors, 'cause we think this is the best place in town to put your advertising dollars.
We love this work. We love Altadena.