Sunday, May 14, 2006

Deluge and Desert

It's been raining.

That phrase doesn't do justice to what we've been experiencing here. When the weather forecasters start talking about rain as they normally would snow (4 inches, 5 inches, 6 inches, etc.) you know you're in trouble.

I live less than a half a mile from the Charles River, far enough to be outside of the flood plain, but close enough to be concerned about all the water. On the TV news the cameras were up where the major flooding was, as is expected. But every once in a while they'd flash up a graphic showing the list of rivers of concern and that list included the Charles. BUT, the Charles is a long and winding river. Where is the concern? Is it in my backyard? Up in Waltham? Needham? Cambridge?

The news gave me no answers. So I turned to the online presence of the local Newton paper. There I found only one thing: a blog entry asking for people with information to post. The phrase "flood us with comments" has yielded none.

I'm sorry, but this is inadequate. I think the pictures of people getting flooded out of their homes in the Merrimack Valley are horrible, and I feel for them, I really do. But what about my neighbors? Will they need to pack up? What about the people living along Cheesecake Brook (which feeds into the Charles and runs past a school)? Not information of importance to a lot of people, but certainly something of importance to me and a few hundred others around here.

Not many people know about the Newton blog, and they're not trained to become reporters themselves. It's great in theory, but getting the public involved is about more than just putting up a post and asking questions, it's about creating a resource they can use and build themselves.

More importantly, the Newton paper should be sending out reporters with cameras and feeding information online. Yes, I know it's a weekly paper, but it's time that it realized how to become a news source, not just a magazine.

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