Online: Web watchdog

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories, "Radio: Spice for the ears," in a special issue about community media in the West.

Four years ago, Dave Frazier spent a whole summer in court, suing Boise over the city council’s decision to build an $18 million police station without putting it to a vote. At first, he represented himself, but later he hired an attorney — and eventually, he won. Three years later, says Frazier, the city tried the same stunt with a proposed $27 million parking garage. Again, Frazier hauled the city into court, where he won again, this time in the Idaho Supreme Court.

Now, he’s found a new way to be a thorn in the side of local government, and at the same time rile the natives: He started the online Boise Guardian. "I couldn’t get the city council to listen to me," says Frazier. "I’d get my three minutes. They’d say, ‘Thank you,’ and go on with their business."

Frazier, a 60-year-old photographer, professes "some type of neutrality." "I’m a radical middle-of-the-roader, though a lot say my views are libertarian in nature," he says. "I want the people to vote, and I’m rabidly anti-growth."

Since starting the Guardian in 2005, he’s revealed the city’s misuse of federal farm subsidies, and a developer’s plans to co-opt five acres of state highway department land east of Boise for access to a new subdivision. He’s kvetched about using state tax incentives to lure a Hawaii-based manufacturer to build a solar panel plant along the Snake River, and he’s helped fuel rumors that a local developer plans to send run-off from condos into a local park. He regularly posts transcripts of calls that Boise residents make to complain to the mayor.

Frazier considers the Guardian a news site, but he writes in the style of the perturbed and maniacal blogger. A newcomer to the site could use a glossary: "Lame Duck Guv" is Frazierese for Idaho Gov. Jim Risch; when someone has "cajones," it means he did the right thing; and when Frazier asks, "Who’s your daddy?" it means he has been proven right about something.

And then there’s Frazier’s "Dope Awards," an honor given to local reporters nominated by readers. One recently went to Alyson Outen of KTVB, for broadcasting live from the station roof during a severe thunderstorm warning. Frazier later added: "A second GUARDIAN reader… offered a ‘common sense’ award to Rick Lantz (the station’s weatherman) who ‘ordered’ Alyson off the roof. Nice job Rick. Those meteorologist academy classes paid off."

By stirring up local politics — and raising Cain about government "irregularities" — Frazier seeks to keep lawmakers on their toes. People are eager to pass on information, he says: "One thing I’ve learned is everyone has something for you to check out." He gets tips from local attorneys, "people in local government who could not go on the record, ever," and readers who check the site regularly, post comments or drop him e-mails — "good citizens," he calls them all.

In a July 3 post concerning farm subsidy misuse on the 2,300-acre farm run by Boise’s public works department (one of his "poop farm stories," as Frazier calls them, because the farm is fertilized with biosolids from the city’s wastewater treatment facilities) he credits his readers with breaking the "real" story: "The information was included in a Washington Post story detailing the out of control spending by the U.S. Department of Agriculture nationwide. A Boise mainstream paper printed the Post story Monday, but it took a GUARDIAN reader to do the real LOCAL reporting."

His advice for fellow Web journalists: "Be absolutely accurate. Be slanted however you are, but tell everybody you’re slanted."

To get Frazier’s "different slant on the news," go to boiseguardian.com.

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