Try covering McHenry County ... from the Philippines

There's an interesting item on the Chicago Tribune's website about the company it uses to "cover" local news stories in the suburbs.

A couple of months ago, the Tribune laid off a bunch of its suburban reporters and contracted with Journatic, a company that hires low-paid freelance reporters in the Philippines to sweep local websites for information that they then formulate into "local" stories. The Tribune is using this service for its TribLocal coverage in communities throughout the suburbs, including in McHenry County.

The thing is, neither the Tribune nor Journatic really wants its readers to know that its "local" news is being written in a foreign country.

You can read the Tribune's story here. The Tribune's story follows several other more detailed stories, one of which can be read here. The second story details Journatic's sometimes questionable practices, including adding fake bylines to stories, having foreign-based reporters obtain temporary local phone numbers so it can appear to sources that the reporters are local, and paying off employees to not talk to the media about its practices.

Is this what "local" journalism has become to the major metros? Unfortunately, this kind of journalism gives a black eye to all the truly local newspapers that have the best interests of their communities at heart.

The Northwest Herald's journalists not only work here in McHenry County, we also live here. I'll explore this topic further in my Sunday column.