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November 23, 2005

In New Orleans, The NewStandard Difference Shines

Since the early days of the disaster-turned-debacle that for a moment inspired even the most reactionary media outlets to acknowledge such problems as poverty and racism, The NewStandard has been unrelenting in our original, focused coverage of the complex, continuing calamite that has stricken America’s South Coast.

For the corporate media, attention to root issues didn’t go over well. Apparently publishers and producers reminded editors and reporters that coverage of the unilateral class war and deep-seeded discrimination are bad for the corporate bottom line. Such necessary "byproducts" of the system on which giant media institutions thrive are supposed to be hidden from the public.

Unlike our corporate counterparts, we have not forgotten that the problems weren’t limited to vicious weather patterns or idiotic agency heads. We know the crisis started generations ago, rooted in centuries of racial hatred and segregation, as well as an economy that relies on competition over necessities made scarce by concentration of wealth. And we know politicians, just like the mainstream media, are unlikely to so much as acknowledge those roots.

Without succumbing to the popular format of human-interest puff pieces, we are reporting the personalized stories of people who have been fighting the problems highlighted by Katrina since long before the 2005 hurricane season even rolled around.

At TNS, we are focusing on that fight.

During my two reader-funded visits to New Orleans, I spent most nights in the back seat of a tiny rental car, surviving off energy bars, spending nearly every waking hour talking to people affected by Katrina’s accomplices: poverty, discrimination, police brutality, dehumanization.

What we lack in budget at The NewStandard, we make up for with hard work and integrity.

It was from that vantage point that I saw first-hand the blinders that my corporate counterparts (or their bosses) must wear. When I reported on the conditions at the "Camp Amtrak" detention facility, I was told that other journalists had been there, too. But the New York Times and the Associated Press chose to focus on the hardships faced by police officers. Only TNS bothered to report the whole stories of New Orleanians plucked from the streets for "crimes" such as violating a repressive curfew or drinking in public; housed in desolate, outdoor cages; and then forced by the judicial system into "community service" for the police.

When I visited the Lower Ninth Ward on the first day that residents were invited back by the mayor to see the destruction of their neighborhood, I know I was joined by several other reporters because I saw their stories that night. Focused as they were on the mayor's orchestrated press conference spectacle, none of them mentioned, as TNS reported, that half of the area had been closed off by National Guard checkpoints, and that people who had traveled hundreds of miles for closure spent the day begging to be let into their neighborhood.

As our membership drive moves slowly along, it is looking more and more like the journalism style unique to The NewStandard will again vanish from the Internet. Journalists will be out of work. Important stories will go unreported. The serious network of arch-conservative hard-news websites will lose one of its few challengers.

If you don’t want that to happen, please help us achieve our goal of 1,000 contributing supporters by upgrading your membership right now. You can give as little as $3 a month – what is most important to us is that you show you are behind us, and that the big sacrifices we make every day to bring you relevant, important news in a principled, ethical manner are worth a little sacrifice from you on a monthly basis.


tnswoofer: In New Orleans, The NewStandard Difference Shines

First, your reporting has been an excellent contribution to a clear understanding of the complete picture. But I don't think mainstream media editors go around reminding reporters that coverage of the plight of the poor, or the ordinary, is bad for the bottom line. Some may, if they're really blatant. But usually, it's much more oblique. They suggest other topics or other approaches. They may, if a reporter suggests an approach such as yours, suddenly shift body language to indicate discomfort, or communicate in semiverbal ways that they're not -- well, COMFORTABLE with that kind of thing. The reason for that, I fear, lies beyond mere wariness about who's going to worry about the bottom line, because good reporting can sell, too. Maybe they know most Americans, as well as most editors, really want to keep their heads buried in the sands of imagined innocence.

Shaman: In New Orleans, The NewStandard Difference Shines

Considering the geo-political significance of New Orleans as the gateway city to the U.S. heartland via the Mississippi/Missouri/Ohio River transportation networks I'm glad you're staying with the story as it unfolds. It would be interesting to find out more about what regional and national planners envison for rebuilding and what impact that will have on the future of the U.S in general.

moyergeo: In New Orleans, The NewStandard Difference Shines

Jessica Azulay's reporting in New Orleans was outstanding. If critical reporting were the standard, rather than parroting official views and race baiting with hyped up looting and raping reports, there would at least be the possibility of a serious discourse on poverty and race in this country. As things stand, at the level of political discourse now, all that happens is we add another wristband - a blue one, says 'Hurricane Relief'. And I think for those of us who value this kind of work it's time for a little public reflection, so here's the guilt trip. I live on less than $7000/year (I know, I have no dependents) and I can come up with $10 a month for a project with as much potential as The NewStandard. Let's do it, people. (And that $10/mo. is really $5 because of the tax deduction)

MarkDilley: In New Orleans, The NewStandard Difference Shines

off topic from this post... did I miss an rss feed for this staff weblog?

g21guy: In New Orleans, The NewStandard Difference Shines

As a former New Orleanian and author of a book on the calamity ("Katrina and the Lost City of New Orleans") as well as being a working journalist, I find your coverage intriguing. As a former 9th Ward resident, I'm glad to see that Ms. Azulay covers my neighborhood. At the same time, at my own magazine,, we've done some coverage by 9th Ward residents on the ground now that raises provocative issues I don't find here.

I'll certainly be back. You've got an interesting project going on.

Cheers, Rod

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.