Collective Blog

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

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

October 18, 2005

Disproportionate Coverage

As much as we'd prefer to pretend we didn't screw this up, TNS editors made a big mistake by not sending a reporter to last weekend's Millions More Movement event in Washington, DC. The event was certainly worthy of our note, so before anyone points out that we heavily covered an internal controversy vis-a-vis black gays wanting access and acceptance within the larger movement, we feel it necessary to note that our reporting was highly disproportionate.

As serious as the conflict highlighted by queer activists within the black community is, the conflict between races looms much larger and broader, and the overall good of a mass gathering like the MMM, despite significant blemishes, is deserving of note.

At The NewStandard, we are committed to pointing out when we fall short as well as when we excell -- in fact, more consistently the former. We think that's a big part of what makes us a trustworthy news outlet.

But we should also note that our failure to cover the MMM on the ground was a direct result of our limited budget and staff resources at this critical juncture. In the future, we will make greater efforts to cover events like the MMM the way we have covered major demonstrations in the past.

October 14, 2005

NY Times Picks Up on 'Camp Amtrak' Story

Coming late to the game, the reputed "paper of record" finally took notice of the horrific holding pen in New Orleans known to its jailers as "Camp Amtrak," just a day after our story ran. Based on the date in a photo caption, they visited sometime last week, but evidently they sat on the story until we broke it. It certainly wasn't because reporter Christopher Drew was busy gathering details, since very few are included, almost exclusively from officials.

Sometimes we get letters from people asking what makes us different from the New York Times. Sometimes people ask why they should donate to The NewStandard when the Times and other papers are free online and will always be around. I can't think of a starker example of the difference, especially since otherwise we will not always be around.

This piece is a classic example of a news outfit with unlimited resources doing a shoddy job and taking a strict pro-authority, anti-accused perspective. Where are the views and voices of those the system victimizes? Where are the critics? Where are the descriptions of unfairness and brutality that Jessica Azulay injected throghout her reporting? 

» Continue reading "NY Times Picks Up on 'Camp Amtrak' Story"

October 12, 2005

New Orleans: Two Tales of One Police Department

It never ceases to amaze me what it takes for the corporate news media to pay attention to widespread social epidemics that plague poor people and people of color in this country. Police brutality is certainly at the top of the list. Widely claimed by survivors nationwide, the stories are rarely believed and still far less commonly validated by news coverage.

But when a news organization happens to record such an incident on camera, one would expect at least a glimmer of hope that not only will the story be covered, but it will be handled somewhat appropriately.

So how, then, does the Associated Press -- whose own photographer taped the vicious, unprovoked beating of retired New Orleans school teacher Robert Davis -- manage to write a story so gushingly sympathetic to the police department that is regularly and systematically mistreating suspected criminals? And how on earth could an organization with such massive resources (and low standards for thoroughness and accuracy) fail to immediately follow up on the broader story of police brutality or the conditions of those plucked out of the New Orleans night and thrown into inhumane conditions before being railroaded into unpaid labor?

NewStandard correspondent Jessica Azulay was the first to interview Mr. Davis, who stands a chance of becoming a household name for less-than-desirable reasons. She got the scoop not because she had heard about the AP's now-famous video, but because she had heard the stories of widespread brutality and false arrest that permeate New Orleans today -- and because by her second full day in town, she believed there was something to them and decided to see what was up.

She got the real scoop on this story not for being connected, but for being willing to work hard and look where everyone said no reporter could venture (when really they meant would venture).

» Continue reading "New Orleans: Two Tales of One Police Department"

October 9, 2005

Dateline: Devastation

New Orleans â€“ Even though traffic is picking up on the roads in and out of New Orleans, the remnants of people’s former lives in this city are still strewn over the highway. Artifacts of disaster: a broken laundry basket, a soggy mattress, shreds of insulation, a fractured pet carrier, a child’s blue stuffed dog – lay deposited on the concrete, exposing just initial details of the loss endured by this city.

I have found no good way to describe the physical landscape of this battered and mostly abandoned place. My camera cannot capture the 360 degrees of desolation and ruin here. My words feel completely inadequate. So I will mostly leave the daunting task of describing Katrina and Rita’s physical damage to others with better equipment or eloquence.

Instead, I will focus on the human facets of this disaster – the stories of institutionalized suffering imposed by people in roles ostensibly intended to alleviate the impact of storms and their aftermath, and the people most affected by authorities’ incompetence, negligence and brutality.

With only two full days on the ground here, I’m still gathering the initial details of the stories I will soon be filing. Though I’m not ready to file any of the several articles I have begun researching, I will give you a sneak peak of what I have done so far.

I am staying in the Algiers neighborhood, which is across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans. This part of the city sustained a lot of wind and rain damage, but was spared Katrina’s floods. I am sleeping in the rental car, across the street from the headquarters of the Common Ground Collective, a grassroots organization that sprung up in the early days of the disaster. Common Ground is an evolving mesh of volunteers from New Orleans and all over the country who are sleeping in tents and working nonstop to get donated supplies into the hands of needy hurricane survivors.

I will be writing a lot more about Common Ground and other organizations working under the radar of the government’s aid distribution – groups that are working not only to serve areas and populations that continue to wait for real (or in some cases any) help from FEMA, but that have an alternative vision for what relief work and rebuilding should look like.

Yesterday, I traveled almost two hours southwest to the Houma area, a region hit hard by Rita’s storm surge and largely neglected by FEMA and the Red Cross. The area has a large Native American population and many residents lived in poverty even before Rita hit. Residents I spoke to there had yet to see anyone from FEMA and have only begun seeing Red Cross aid in the last couple of days.

house in houma
[PHOTO: A house on Shrimper's Row in Dulac, Louisiana, a region devistated by hurricane Rita.  © Copyright 2005 Jessica Azulay/The NewStandard]

Today, I visited a temporary detention center in New Orleans where some people are emerging bruised and bloody. Police hold most people there only 24 hours and then either release them or send them on to a more permanent jail. I was able to enter the converted bus station and see the conditions in which prisoners there are being held. There is still a lot to this story that remains to be uncovered, and I will have more details soon in the form of an actual article.


[PHOTO: Detention pens in the temporary jail in New Orleans. Inmates are generally held for 24 hours here. They sleep on the concrete and are given only one blanket. Â© Copyright 2005 Jessica Azulay/The NewStandard]

Lastly, I just want to thank everyone for their support of our work here and for patience as the rest of the TNS staff struggles to put out the daily news while I’m on assignment.

October 7, 2005

TNS on Assignment in New Orleans

The supposed upsurge in "real journalism" by the corporate media that took us all by surprise in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina has long since subsided. What little glimmer it offered the poor and oppressed of the devastated Gulf Coast has largely faded. Really, it was just the sheer volume of media attention that allowed a gleaning of decent coverage, selected here and there from hundreds of corporate outlets looking at issues surrounding the catastrophe and the calamitous government response to it.

So we have decided to do something about the gap. For weeks now we have been receiving tips and reports about all manner of issues the mainstream media has been ignoring, and we can't help but investigate. 

NewStandard co-founder and primary editor Jessica Azulay is right now on a flight to New Orleans, where she will gather and report stories over the next eight days or so, picking up the slack and filling in the holes left by the corporate media as they move on to bigger and sexier stories about reopening casinos and strip clubs.

» Continue reading "TNS on Assignment in New Orleans"

October 2, 2005

Mass Actions and Their Distractions

It’s been nearly a week since we ran this story about last Monday’s protest in front of the White House, but I wanted to point out a few things in Ben Dangl’s coverage of that event that you didn’t see elsewhere in the media.

First, unlike most of his counterparts, Ben did not focus his coverage on Cindy Sheehan, the media’s favorite anti-war protester. While Sheehan’s protests in Texas and Washington DC have revitalized corporate media coverage of anti-war sentiment in the US, last Monday, her notoriety may have hindered, rather than helped the protesters.

» Continue reading "Mass Actions and Their Distractions"

Why We Refused to Spread Lies About Black People After Katrina

Suddenly, a month after Hurricane Katrina passed and the corporate media bought and regurgitated every ridiculous, racist rumor coming out of New Orleans, they quietly admit they were full of crap. The inevitably late round of media culpas -- following four weeks of blind parroting of exaggeration and innuendo -- came on the heals of a New York Times exposé of then more ridiculous stories and their effects (in which they failed to mention their own or anyone else's reporting).

It is bad enough that they were so gullible as to gargle, swallow and repeat every urban myth they heard. Gullibility could almost be forgivable, so long as proper doubt was injected into news coverage. But the fact is, reporters, producers and editors ran roughshod over the rules of their own trade, as they have so many times recently on other subjects (e.g., Iraq) -- they failed to corroborate what they were hearing from biased sources. They reported rumor as established fact, and they failed, almost to a one, to inject any substantial doubt into the stories they relayed.

At TNS, we only reported on the street violence in one article, and very briefly at that, fairly early on. In a story titled "Katrina Survivors Face Cops, Gougers, Scams, 'Gangs'," I tried to put the "roving violence" factor into its proper context, implying that everyone from police to insurance companies may well have posed a greater danger than the mythical hoodlums who at the time of writing were reportedly running New Orleans as the police literally cowered in fear. At the end of the piece, I decided to make note of the tales of violence:

» Continue reading "Why We Refused to Spread Lies About Black People After Katrina"

September 22, 2005

And the Worst Reportage Award Goes to...

Yesterday the Associated Press produced one of the worst pieces of "reporting" we've seen in months. It was reprinted unquestioningly in at least a couple dozen newspapers (or at least their websites), including the supposedly enlightened Guardian and Washington Post. The facts in it are so wrong, one cannot help but wonder how the story was gathered. There is not even a byline.

Read for yourself:

» Continue reading "And the Worst Reportage Award Goes to..."

September 15, 2005

The NewStandard Difference (or, Passing the Schmuck)

Even though we've added our exciting new In Other News... facility to summarize and link to stories covered elsewhere, once in a while we come across an item in the news -- even one that is well reported -- and we say, We can do that better. Even with our meager resources, derived exclusively from the generosity of our readers, we can still read, write and think more freely than our corporate counterparts.

Such was the case with the Knight Ridder piece exposing the fact that Michael Chertoff was ultimately responsible for coordinating the federal response to Katrina. When Jessica Azulay reviewed the source material for that story, something stood out that had been overlooked by the mainstream: the directive that gives Chertoff that authority as Homeland Security chief does not empower him to pass it off to a lower-level official.

» Continue reading "The NewStandard Difference (or, Passing the Schmuck)"

September 11, 2005

Racism, Nationalism and the 'Refugees' Debate

It's time we weighed in on the discussion surrounding what term should be applied to survivors of Hurricane Katrina (and the debacle surrounding it) who have lost their homes and are indefinitely displaced. Jesse Jackson, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other civil rights advocates have criticised the media and others for using the term "refugees," suggesting that it implies a foreign "other" and therefore demeans the largely African-American group the term is currently being used to describe.

"It is racist to call American citizens 'refugees'," said Jackson when he visited the Houston Astrodome on Monday.

Representative Diane Watson (D-CA) weighed in similarly: "'Refugee' calls up to mind people that come from different lands and have to be taken care of. These are American citizens," she said.

Watson is technically correct, but we aren't buying it.

» Continue reading "Racism, Nationalism and the 'Refugees' Debate"

August 24, 2005

Alternative Media Solidarity - Please Help Our Friends

Many of you might be surprised to hear that, aside from money, the thing we need the most and receive the least of is help from fellow alternative media organizations. Very few other alternative news sites have helped us become what we are -- we have had to do it in spite of them. That just seems to be the way alternative media operates, at least on the Left, which is where many people situate us, for better or worse.

But a few sites have really come through for us, and now one of them has announced it is struggling. So despite the fact that we are very far from real sustainability ourselves, for those of you who already support us, or those who would prefer to support a more analytical or broader-focused complement to our coverage, we urge you to check out and help out CounterCurrents.org. An all-volunteer-run site, CounterCurrents publishes a great deal of excellent, analytical content drawn each day from publications and writers all over the world, taking a particularly global progressive perspective on issues and events.

CounterCurrents has set up a donation page. If you are able, please support them generously. Even if their content is not your bag, we ask you to consider the sheer derth of solidarity among progressive alternative media outlets -- perhaps it is time we started rewarding those who set greed aside and help others on principle.

August 23, 2005

Failure to Note Failure in Iraq

Jessica Azulay co-wrote this blog entry.

The only thing more chaotic than the events that amounted to a constitutional crisis in Iraq yesterday was today's coverage of what should have been reported as a veritable coup, albeit by the majority of Iraq's existing interim leadership.

Rarely does such an obvious debacle receive such a strange array of whitewashes. Even before Condoleeza Rice released the State Department's official spinning of the events (more on that later), the corporate US media was scrambling to find ways to portray the failure of Iraq's national assembly to approve a draft of the constitution as a narrow success, snatched from the jaws of defeat.

A number of serious myths are making the rounds of the mainstream press, virtually without serious comment. Here are the big ones:

  • MYTH: The National Assembly has met the (new) deadline
  • MYTH: A draft constitution has been approved by the committee charged with drawing it up
  • MYTH: The drafting process has been democratic and participatory

» Continue reading "Failure to Note Failure in Iraq"

August 19, 2005

When Reporting Affects the News

An interesting thing happened while reporter Erin Cassin was gathering the story about the Pentagon requiring personal information from those wanting to attend its America Supports You Freedom Walk.

This story idea came to us as we were inspecting the event’s website for another story brief-writer Brendan Coyne was putting together about the Washington Post’s sponsorship of the Walk. We noticed that all participants needed to register ahead of time and that the registration form required lots of personal information: full name, address, phone, etc.

» Continue reading "When Reporting Affects the News"

August 16, 2005

TNS Expands Middle East Section!

For some time now, we've had an "Iraq in Crisis" section that was the most we could scrape together in terms of Middle East coverage. As good as it has been, we've long wanted to expand, so today we take our first major step -- a leap of faith, really -- in that direction since well over a year ago. We are now covering the conflict in Israel/Palestine with on-the-ground reporting and investigative journalism.

In order to make this work, however, we are going to need a whole lot of fresh support from people who value truly independent media (as in, no ads, no investors, no foundations, no strings).

» Continue reading "TNS Expands Middle East Section!"

July 25, 2005

Response to a Critic

So I’ve been burned up about a little something for about a week now, and I think rereading Brian Dominick’s post about our corrections policy hasn’t helped a damn bit.

See, personally I find the editing he and Jessica Azulay do every day to be outstanding, both in regards to making sure I’m happy with the writing being published in my name, and, even more so, for their exhaustive efforts to ensure that whatever makes it onto the site is as accurate as possible. And, I think, those efforts extend to my colleagues here, though maybe they don’t need to their facts checked as closely….

In addition to the pre-publishing efforts, they take challenges to stories VERY seriously. Trust me. What follows is an account of one such recent adventure.

» Continue reading "Response to a Critic"

July 17, 2005

Institutionalizing Biased War Reporting

Pretty much all mainstream media institutions insist they are "objective" and "unbiased." How either of those can be true when those same outlets take explicit sides in wars is beyond me. But what is worse -- there is really not even an understanding among journalists or journalism ethicists with regard to taking sides in war. It's just a given; journalists, editors, producers and publishers are all supposed to root for the home team -- even assist the home team. And they don't even bother hiding this, despite their insistence on "objectivity."

A piece on National Public Radio's weekly show On the Media put this truism on ugly display last weekend. Entitled "Murderous Intent," the segment (transcript / audio) is an interview with correspondent Aparisim Ghosh of Time magazine, who recently interviewed a suicide bomber-to-be. OtM co-host Bob Garfield seemed to find a fascinating moral dilema in the concept of interviewing a man intent on killing Americans and then doing anything other than seeing to that source's arrest.

» Continue reading "Institutionalizing Biased War Reporting"

July 13, 2005

The Lid is Off

Thanks to Steve Davies over at Endangered Species & Wetlands Report, the draft bill so many seemed to have but no one was willing to share became public, and journalist Chris Getzan was able to jump on it. This draft was one of the sillier Washington leaks, since everyone was asked to keep the source secret -- though in this case the source hardly matters -- and no one was permitted to show anyone the bill without getting permission all the way up the chain.

Anyway, our (editorial) opinion of the piece Chris put together is that it's one of the best articles we have run in a while. His research of the story began about a month ago when he figured out that the legislation was coming, so Chris had a terrific grasp of the issue by the time he sat down to write, including interviews spanning weeks.

» Continue reading "The Lid is Off"

July 7, 2005

Waiting for a Leak to Burst: Endangered Species Act Endangered

I spent a good portion of Wednesday trying to help reporter Chris Getzan obtain a copy of a reportedly startling draft of a law Republican members of Congress intend to introduce sometime soon that would weaken the landmark Endangered Species Act over the next ten years before eliminating it outright in 2015.

While the bill was known to be in the works, the story breaking the existence of the draft bill appeared in Monday's New York Times. Someone -- probably a Republican congressperson disenchanted by the severe nature of the bill -- had leaked the bill to Times reporter Felicity Barringer.

» Continue reading "Waiting for a Leak to Burst: Endangered Species Act Endangered"

Agonizing Corrections

Twice in the past month I have had the dishonor of posting major correction notices to NewStandard articles of which I functioned as primary editor. This is a particularly painful experience for me, as I'm something of a perfectionist and I simply despise admitting a mistake.

When we founded TNS, however, accuracy was foremost among our objectives. And we decided that prominent, embarrassing corrections posted to the top page for upwards of a week (depending on the severity of the error, in our view), would be the penalty (and public service) for screwing up on factual matters. The more egregious the mistake, the longer it remains a prominent feature of our home page.

» Continue reading "Agonizing Corrections"

July 6, 2005

Good Reporting Gone Bad: The Observer on Iraq Torture

There are few stories more important -- and thus more crucial to get right -- than coverage of ongoing torture of prisoners held in the Iraq. It should not at this point be difficult to believe that abuse of captives is regular and widespread, be it at the hands of occupation forces or Iraq's reconstituted homegrown military.

So it is all the more distressing when what could constitute a top-notch exposé of the ongoing abuse turns out to be an example of poor journalism -- probably terrific investigation followed by weak reporting.

» Continue reading "Good Reporting Gone Bad: The Observer on Iraq Torture"

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.