Collective Blog

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Maintained by the staff of the PeoplesNetWorks collective and The NewStandard.

March 6, 2006

End of the Poll

Beginning today, TNS's experiment with reader polling comes to an end. Out with a whimper, not least the result of the mostly negative comments we got to our recent query on the matter in the blogs. Some combination of factors conspired to make our polls very unpopular, including, I suspect, a couple of things no one thought of.

» Continue reading "End of the Poll"

March 3, 2006

Covering the Government's Empty Promises on Torture

Sometimes I wonder if we at TNS as too pessimistic in our coverage of the government’s actions, too willing to see the glass as half-empty, instead of half-full. Such was the case when we reported back in December that the so-called McCain "torture ban," hailed as an instant fix for the torture scandals embroiling America, might not be all it was cracked up to be.

Back then, TNS staff journalist Michelle Chen highlighted the gnawing concerns of some civil rights groups that companion amendments, shoved into the bill to placate the White House, might trump some of the very protections that McCain’s law purported to establish...

» Continue reading "Covering the Government's Empty Promises on Torture"

March 1, 2006

Take our poll: Does this poll suck?

So we’re now nearly a month into our new-and-improved incarnation here at The NewStandard, and while we appreciate all the positive feedback and congratulations we’ve received about the new site by way of email and other correspondence, we’ve also been taking a hard look at what works about the site and what doesn’t. We’ve come to the conclusion that our reader poll is not eliciting the response we had hoped. With all but one poll failing to break the 200-response mark, we are left with three possible conclusions:

1) Our readers don’t like polls,

2) Our poll questions stink,

3) There is something about the poll’s design or set-up that deters people from responding.

In our estimation, only a tiny percentage of our thousands of readers feel compelled to participate in the poll. We just want to know what about the poll makes it so much less attractive to our readers than the rest of our content.

So please let us know: If you like the polls, what do you like about them? If not, please tell us what we could do, if anything, to make the polls more interesting, user-friendly and engaging. Or maybe you think we should just scrap the feature altogether and try to find something else. Whatever the case, we’re counting on your input to help us improve the site, so please respond to this blog entry. Thanks!

February 19, 2006

Cartoonist Mikhaela Reid on Muhammad cartoon controversy

NewStandard collective member Catherine Komp recently interviewed cartoonist Mikhaela Reid for the TNS Weekend edition we send to all Premium Members each Sunday. Her answer to a question regarding the escalating conflict over offensive cartoons was too long for the weekly e-mail but too good to throw away. The rest of the interview is terrific, but it's available only to Premium Members.


» Continue reading "Cartoonist Mikhaela Reid on Muhammad cartoon controversy"

February 16, 2006

It Was Chertoff All Along

It's kind of amazing how long it takes the corporate news media -- with all their experience, expertise and access to sources and analysts -- to come around to some of the most obvious conclusions. And it's really sad when they're led to those conclusions by typically sluggish government institutions -- especially when government wrongdoing is the subject.

More than a year ago on our pages, Kari Lydersen pointed out how "mildly" Michael Chertoff was treated during his Senate confirmation hearings for Secretary of Homeland Security. It was pretty clear to us then that Chertoff was should have been scrutinized harder. It was clear to a lot of people, in fact. Now, almost half a year after the Hurricane Katrina debacle, the press is starting to wake up to the obvious -- just behind Congress. But in doing so, they have to make it seem like it was an unforseeable eventuality. Check out the way the LA Times talks about him:

» Continue reading "It Was Chertoff All Along"

February 5, 2006

Long-time/First-time

Greetings from the newest PeoplesNetWorks collective member. The last few weeks have been hectic, so please excuse the delay in my requisite blog baptism and personal introduction. I do want to share how thrilled I am to join the collective and begin my work as full-time staff reporter and editor.

Having worked for various news organizations in the past, including a public radio station in Syracuse, I’ve had much freedom to cover issues that are important to me. But I did not have many opportunities to do the type of quality, in-depth journalism for which The NewStandard is known and loved. For those of you who listen to public radio, you’re likely familiar with the two-to-four-minute local newscasts squeezed into National Public Radio programs. For public radio reporters, at least the ones who venture beyond the fax machine for their stories, your daily job entails a painful process of shaving down hours of research and interviews to fit into a 90-second segment. (And in case you’re wondering, that’s about 250 words.)

» Continue reading "Long-time/First-time"

January 28, 2006

And Then There Were Five...

With apologies for having to wait a week to make this information public, we are positively tickled to announce that Catherine Komp will be joining PeoplesNetWorks as our fifth full-time collective member. Catherine has been reporting for TNS since 2004. She has also been the media editor at Clamor Magazine since 2003 and has covered various issues for Free Speech Radio News.

Jessica and Brian came to know Catherine well while she was working as a morning news anchor at a public radio station in Syracuse. Even though she recently moved from Syracuse to Richmond, Virginia, Catherine’s work for TNS made her the first choice we all had in mind to fill this vital fifth slot. Since she began working with us, Catherine has shown herself willing to take on challenging assignments and has, in turn, challenged TNS to try new mediums and otherwise improve our publication.

Catherine's content work will mostly consist of writing, but she will also take on significant editorial duties. In February, she will also take over the job of answering much of our member-support and reader-mail duties, so many if you will get a chance to know her a bit better in the future.

The rest of us -- Jessica, Brendan, Michelle and Brian -- all believe that Catherine is as close to a perfect fit for our team as we could have come and we are proud that we could "promote" one of our freelance contributors into a full-time position instead of performing an exhaustive and expensive nationwide search. We all sincerely welcome her aboard, and we know our readers and supporters will as well.

--The "Old" Collective

Jessica Azulay
MIchelle Chen
Brendan Coyne
Brian Dominick

Equal Pay, Balanced Job Complexes and Other Oddities

A lot of people have commented that they appreciate glimpses into how the PeoplesNetWorks collective operates, and I think the most interesting aspect of our organizational structure is also the one our readers probably know the least about: the participatory economics model we use for staffing.

As a collective, every member has equal decision-making authority. There is absolutely no hierarchy.

» Continue reading "Equal Pay, Balanced Job Complexes and Other Oddities"

January 24, 2006

‘Lower your shields...’

This month, as Brendan and I and the other staffers map out our roles in this organization and get a feel for the administrative side of this enterprise, I am seizing this time as an opportunity to step back from the reporting process itself and think more philosophically about my job – and journalism in general. I wish more reporters engaged in this type of reflection (or displayed evidence of it in their work!).

The current collective members have only formally met as a group a handful of times, but we’ve managed to engage each other democratically to design our jobs for the coming year, assign ourselves various managerial tasks and deliberate on how to make the site as productive and effective as possible. How many employees working in the corporate media can claim that at any point in their careers, let alone as fresh hires?

We’ve jokingly thrown around references to a better known "collective" in our popular culture, the mind-sharing Borg of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s tempting to assume that any organization in which power is uniformly distributed must entail uniformity among its members. Somehow, though, we manage to defy Star-Trek myth. We’re not actually some freak happenstance in which ideological and professional compatriots have magically aligned. Nor did the founders of TNS decide to seek out other staffers who fit some predetermined blueprint for the "ideal" collective member.

» Continue reading "‘Lower your shields...’"

January 23, 2006

Hacking Away at the Redesign

Amanda Luker, who is heading up the redesign of our new website, has finished the bulk of her work. She has remodeled the layout and the look-and-feel of the new pages, which took a tremendous amount of work.

I have now begun integrating the computer code that allows us to apply Amanda's templates to thousands of articles and lots of other kinds of pages throughout the entire website. In the process, I am streamlining the software that runs The NewStandard and adding lots of new features, some of which you won't be able to help but notice.

Amanda's coding is excellent. For those in the know, she is re-doing nearly all of our pages in strictly standards-compliant XHTML/CSS code. For those not in the know, that means all browsers -- including those intended to compensate for visual impairments -- will display our new pages nicely, aside from any glitches we might eventually need to iron out. It also means pages will download faster.

» Continue reading "Hacking Away at the Redesign"

January 21, 2006

Handbooks and Bookkeeping

The last week for me has been grueling for me. First there were the 30 hours of marathon meetings over the weekend, in which we discussed everything from our lofty vision and goals for TNS to who has authority to make what decisions to small details like where to place the In Other News feature on the new website.

Then, I jumped immediately into my role as PeoplesNetWorks bookkeeper and accountant. Since Tuesday, I’ve spent well over 25 hours making sure that every cent from 2005 is accounted for and preparing employee tax forms for our writers and the IRS.

I’ve also been working with Michelle to revamp our Content Contributors’ Handbook. This guide, which is publicly available on our website as a PDF, is the backbone of TNS editorial policy. It embodies our ideals as a collectively-run news organization and orients writers and editors to the high standards we practice during the daily news writing and editing process. We wrote the first draft version in late 2003 before we began publishing and updated it slightly in the summer of 2004.

Now we are working on doing a more expansive overhaul so that it reflects our collective experience of news publishing for two years. When we come out with the new version in a couple of weeks, I encourage all of you to take a look at it. I think it will give you insight into what goes on behind each news article here at TNS.

Creeping Slowly Back to Life

As our faithful readers and members already know, I and my colleague Michelle Chen decided to join the PeoplesNetWorks Collective a little more than a week ago, a move that we (all of PNW) earnestly hope makes The NewStandard stronger and better than before. We already offered a brief preview of our upcoming (for lack of a better word) re-launch, and we’ve discussed and decided on a number of other things for the near future that will hopefully draw our readership into the newsmaking and reporting process further.

One of those things seemed so simple at the time – more blogging by the whole group–and the other day Brian made the perfectly applicable suggestion, a sort of "why I decided good wages and free time aren’t for me right now," or something of the sort. Yet somehow, the very idea of blogging more seems so much harder now that I have more say over the future and direction of TNS. I mean, how much should we be saying here outside of the format of a news article?

Really, I’m wondering and would like to know what our readers think. While we shan’t go down the pontificating path, it would be nice to know what you guys would like to see in this blog space. And conversations about our materials are always welcome.

» Continue reading "Creeping Slowly Back to Life"

January 17, 2006

The Gears are Turning

Our first full retreat in over a year produced lots of big news we couldn’t wait to share with our readers and supporters. Our new site design and a lot of our ideas for new features and types of content are still in the works, but we will leak to you what we can now, and continue updating you as new items and projects become more certain and concrete.

While we have been operating with a staff of four since last spring, only two of us have been doing administrative work – in addition to journalism – since collective member Simone Baribeau left her full-time staff position in spring 2004. Simone still served on our collective as a third voice over that time, but we mutually agreed she should resign this month before accepting two new collective members who are also staff.

» Continue reading "The Gears are Turning"

January 13, 2006

Brian Dominick on CounterSpin

People get upset if I don't self-promote and they learn some other way that someone from The NewStandard did an interview or something elsewhere, so I'll announce that I did an interview with Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting's weekly radio show, CounterSpin, about media coverage of the West Virginia mining disaster turned debacle. It's a terrific media criticism show that I was really honored to be asked on. Kind of like NPR's On the Media, in case you're more familiar with it -- except with backbone, integrity and no detectable penchant for defending or excusing bad journalism.

Anyway, the show begins airing tomorrow on noncommercial stations around the country. Check here for your local listings. If you don't have a station near you (like we don't), you'll be able to hear the whole episode on the web at their archive, which you might just want to check out in the meantime.

January 11, 2006

Your Input Needed!

As part of the site redesign, we are considering various masthead ideas. Since preferences among our own staff vary widely, we need your opinion on these proposed logos for the masthead. Please tell us which one(s) you like best and why by commenting on this entry.

NOTE: All logos have been re-sized to fit this page. The phrase "independent. ad-free. non-profit. uncompromised." would be clearly legible on the actual version.

» Continue reading "Your Input Needed!"

January 5, 2006

Venezuelan Fuel Story Leads to Action in Chicago

The following is an excerpt from an email sent to The NewStandard by Chicago media activist and long-time TNS reader/supporter Mitchell Szczepanczyk about the impact of the story we ran last week by Jessica Pupovac. The story concerned the Chicago Transit Authority's decision to decline an offer of discounted diesel for its buses from Venezuelan-owned Citgo oil, the only condition being they had to pass the savings on to poor public-transit users.

Within a day of the post of Jessica's story on TNS, it got reposted/linked on two widely-read Chicago-area websites: Chicago Indymedia (which prominently re-featured the story) and Gapers Block. Another blog, Chicagoist, also linked to the story.

» Continue reading "Venezuelan Fuel Story Leads to Action in Chicago"

January 4, 2006

This Just In: Corporate Media Standards Scrape Bottom

The mainstream media has featured a slew of analysis trying to evaluate how outlets got the story of miners surviving the Sago Mine explosion so wrong. Starting with a piece by Greg Mitchell that appeared on the Editor & Publisher website, there has been no shortage of media-watchers willing to look at what amounted to carelessness. It's pretty clear that, to some degree or another, the breaking-news-addicted corporate media could have been more skeptical of reports that 12 of 13 miners had survived the 40-plus-hour ordeal. The criticism is valid, but it is hardly the most important.

What about the many other ways the corporate media mishandled this story?

» Continue reading "This Just In: Corporate Media Standards Scrape Bottom"

December 28, 2005

UPI stretches to excuse Bush wiretaps

In what lots of newswatchers are flat-out misreading as a juicy piece of scoop, this tiny United Press International article about Bush's nefarious wiretapping enterprise is making the rounds despite a bogus premise.

Just for starters, UPI referred to the recently exposed eavesdropping as "international wiretaps," when in fact it is their decidedly domestic nature that is causing particular controversy. But did the leftist bloggers linking to and reprinting this bizarre piece of journalism note that? Nope... They don't seem to have noticed.

» Continue reading "UPI stretches to excuse Bush wiretaps"

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.

» Continue reading "In New Orleans, The NewStandard Difference Shines"

November 13, 2005

The Jimmy Massey Controversy: Should TNS Retract or Correct?

The St. Louis Dispatch ran an "article" on November 8 by former embedded reporter Ron Harris, purportedly debunking claims made by ex-Marine Jimmy Massey that he and his unit engaged in all manner of atrocities while in Iraq during the early days of the occupation. Complete with perhaps the most unflattering photo published on a newspaper site since the tighty-whitey-clad-Saddam tabloid photo, the piece appeared to have some merit, assuming as one would that a debunking piece in a major US newspaper would have involved extra editorial oversight, fact-checking and source-vetting.

But it turns out one cannot assume too much these days, as appears to be evidenced in an equally scathing debunking-of-the-debunking piece quickly put together by antiwar commentator Stan Goff, which may or may not have been vetted by an editor before it was posted November 8 to the CounterPunch website. Goff's contribution was followed on the 10th by a response from Massey himself.

I spent some time looking into the various claims of the various writers this week, since TNS ran two pieces over the past year citing some of Massey's claims. One was about his testimony at the Canadian asylum trial of a fellow soldier. The other was a report about loose trigger-fingers at US military "checkpoints" in Iraq, particularly the one where soldiers shot at released hostage Giuliana Sgrena and Italian secret agent Nicola Calipari, wounding the former and killing the latter.

But I must confess, given the arguments at hand, it appears impossible to either fully corroborate Massey's story (which does appear to contain contradictions, exaggerations and possibly distortions), or to really validate Harris's decidedly sloppy critique. What is clear is that Harris played fast and loose with his assertions -- especially his claims about the content of Massey's claims -- and that he did one of the poorest jobs of reporting I've seen on a story like this in at least a couple of weeks (which is sadly saying quite a lot, given how much news I read and how bad American journalism is today).

That said, I don't regret summarizing and linking to Harris's story in TNS's In Other News section last week (except for the headline I used, "Ex-marine's shocking war stories revealed as tall tales," which I have since moderated), and yet I don't regret citing Massey's claims in other TNS stories. Allow me to explain...

» Continue reading "The Jimmy Massey Controversy: Should TNS Retract or Correct?"

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.