Collective Blog

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

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

March 1, 2005

Back from Hell

Well, our 2004 taxes are filed (I think), and we've shipped off our 1,400-page response to a letter from the Treasury Dept. requesting "clarification" of some issues that arose during consideration of our application for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the United States tax code. The agent handling our case asked to see every single link to other websites (100 printed pages of small print external URLs), as well as a copy of every single page -- articles, weblogs, indexes, everything -- ever published on TNS.

As impossible as that task seemed, now that we have finished it, we are sort of amazed at what a tangible view of our last year's effort looks like. For anyone wondering what we have accomplished since we launched in January 2004, here's a visual illustration.

» Continue reading "Back from Hell"

February 19, 2005

Bob Novak: The Missing Fink

Despite it's obvious importance to the journalism trade and industry, few current stories are as regularly and poorly reported as that concerning the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame by Robert Novak and its aftermath. There is a lot to this story that almost always goes unmentioned -- whether you're watching CNN, where Novak has been a regular on both sides of the camera since the first week CNN went on air -- or even so-called progressive news outlets like The Guardian.

Here's the whole story that almost no one is telling:

» Continue reading "Bob Novak: The Missing Fink"

February 11, 2005

Dark Thursday: 2 Controversial Verdicts Deal Blows to Civil Liberties

For people concerned about freedom in the United States -- that is supposed to be all Americans, but I’m not naïve enough to believe such nonsense -- yesterday was a grim moment in our country’s history. Most of the time, working in the news business is a dismal venture. Especially when one does not cover "fluff" stories, but rather focuses on the important news that impacts real people every day, recent times have been particularly somber, to put it lightly.

Yesterday two separate juries entered two separate courtrooms to deliver two separate series of verdicts in cases that were portrayed by the media as related to terrorism. The main defendants in each case were extraordinarily good people. Charges against them -- in each case milked for every last possible morsel of prosecutorial leverage -- were inflated by a post-9/11 Justice Department bent on intimidation.

» Continue reading "Dark Thursday: 2 Controversial Verdicts Deal Blows to Civil Liberties"

Excellence in Reporting

Chances are you never heard of journalist Michelle Chen before she started writing for The NewStandard last October, and even if you're a regular TNS reader, her byline may not have stood out, attached as it has been to a series of articles on relatively less "sexy" topics. But we are thrilled to have her reporting for us, as she is doubtless one of the best reporters we have ever worked with. In addition to being hard-working, thorough and professional with an excellent eye for important angles and an ear for crucial voices, Michelle produces writing that is simply a pleasure to read.

Case in point: her most recent story, "Poor Communities and Advocates Fight Tax-time Deception," published this morning. The subject -- the struggle against predatory lending in the form of high-interest tax refund advances -- may appear mundane at first glance. I have to admit, if I saw it in another publication, I might not even read past the first paragraph. But Michelle has a way of helping the reader grasp the relevance of the subject matter she reports, and her writing style is captivating enough to bring nearly any content to life. 

If you have not taken a serious look at Michelle Chen's reporting, I strongly recommend you do so. Her work is usually longer and more elaborate than our typical pieces, but in each case she infuses vitality into her work. We stand by it as exemplary of the kind of journalism we strive to produce and are proud to achieve as often as we do with the help of so many exceptional journalists.

February 9, 2005

Welcome to the MATRIX

This is just a quick post to plug Madeleine Baran’s feature on the MATRIX database, published by The NewStandard back in June 2004. Today, we published a short report about an ACLU challenge to Michigan State Police use of the program, but I just want to encourage readers to take a look at Madeleine’s previous article, "Welcome to the Matrix: Inside the Government’s Secret, Corporate-Run Mega-Database," for a much more in-depth investigation into what MATRIX is all about.

February 8, 2005

Bush to Poor: F*@# You!

Putting together today’s report about President Bush’s proposed 2006 budget was a bit overwhelming. There are so many programs getting the ax from the administration, we couldn’t possibly include them all. Additionally, we’re sure we didn’t capture completely how the administration’s failure to increase funding even enough to keep up with inflation will impact various agencies and the people they serve. That said, we hope we provided our readers an introduction to the administration’s proposal and a sense of the priorities it represents.

» Continue reading "Bush to Poor: F*@# You!"

February 7, 2005

KDVS radio interview

I just did a great interview with France Sénécal on her talk show, It's About You, out of Davis, California. There's an MP3 of the full hour show available, but it's pretty big (14mb). I'll try cutting it down and posting it to our server so the download will be smaller, if I get a chance.

We do this kind of stuff from time to time, and I'll try to remember to post links more often in the future. For anyone interested in interviewing us, we don't bite. We usually jump at the opportunity.

January 31, 2005

Iraqi Election Coverage

We are working on a thorough report covering Sunday's elections in Iraq (did you hear they were "historic")? As usual, we are not going to rush to conclusions like the rest of the mainstream and alternative media, and we aren't going to just regurgitate some line we were prepared to say no matter how the day's events turned out (again, unlike most mainstream and alternative media, which probably had their post-election wrapup copy written days before the polls opened, declaring the process a resounding success for democracy or an empty setback for humanity).

In the meantime, I wanted to point out an interesting tidbit. There's an organization calling itself the Iraqi Election Information Network (EIN). They have put out a very interesting, slightly critical but overwhelmingly praising "preliminary report" on the elections. We have proof that this group is actually a front for the US-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the "international wing of the Democratic Party".

» Continue reading "Iraqi Election Coverage"

January 28, 2005

Covering Social Movements and Activist Events for TNS

In her recent letter to the editor, Gertrude McBain brings up some important points, while erring in her assessment of both what TNS is and what we attempted to accomplish in reporting on the counter-inaugural protests in Washington, D.C. last week.

She is right in raising the questions of what was accomplished, what needs to be done and how do activists accomplish these aims. Unfortunately, on-the-ground coverage of a protest event is not the place for such speculation, nor is a hard news report.

Most glaringly, Ms. McBain defines the protests as anti-war. Certainly a large majority of the events taking place in opposition to the inauguration had an anti-war theme, but there were many other groups and issues involved. Abortion and women’s rights groups, people opposed to free trade and ‘globalization,’ gay rights activist, folks concerned over electoral fraud and ballot access, those who would like to see our whole system torn down and many others had a place in the protests.

» Continue reading "Covering Social Movements and Activist Events for TNS"

January 26, 2005

TNS Supporter Takes to the Streets

As we receive more and more flattering email and so many donations from our growing base of supporters, we at PeoplesNetWorks are filled with gratitude. We only wish we could personally thank every single person who has signed up to donate -- whether they contribute $3 or $100 each month.

A lot of NewStandard readers take supportive actions that cannot be evaluated in monetary terms. Many of you forward our articles to friends or send messages urging coworkers and family members to support our work. Lots of people write in with advice about everything from grammar to ideas for stories to cover. But once in a great while someone does something truly exceptional.

One such supporter is Marcus Denton, who has gone above and beyond. In addition to a generous monthly contribution, Marcus tirelessly promotes TNS high and low. Below are some pictures of him distributing TNS literature at a recent anti-Bush Inauguration protest in Texas.

» Continue reading "TNS Supporter Takes to the Streets"

Noam Chomsky Issues Funding Challenge to The NewStandard

We are really proud and excited about what renowned social critic, prolific author and long-time NewStandard reader Noam Chomsky has to say about TNS:

It is hard to exaggerate the significance these days of independent, careful, probing and thoughtful news reporting. The NewStandard has set a very high standard in that regard. It has already won an important place among those who want to understand the world, and to act to change it. And the prospects ahead are exciting.

I hope you will join in helping The NewStandard achieve these critically important goals.

And what's more, Prof. Chomsky has put his money where his mouth is, and invited friends, colleagues and fellow TNS supporters to do the same. To read more about the special offer Chomsky and other major TNS backers have put on the table to entice others to help us grow into a news organization that can truly stand up to the elites in government, media and big business while reporting the efforts of others around the country and the world standing up for themselves, read about the challenge fund or go straight to the member registration form and sign up to sustain The NewStandard today!

January 21, 2005

What do you think of our approach to demo coverage?

We are really proud of how our Inauguration protest coverage came out. With only two correspondents on the ground covering a huge number of largely spontaneous events, it was impossible to hit every affair or talk to someone from every organization. But we think our journalists did a pretty great job of asking important (relevant) questions of a wide variety of people, and managing to tell an important, multi-dimensional story.

» Continue reading "What do you think of our approach to demo coverage?"

Inauguration Protest Photos

I just finished looking through the collection of Bush Inauguration protest photos on the Yahoo! News site, and I recommend them to our readers. There are more than 100 of them -- images from demonstrations throughout the world. While TNS was only able to cover the protest in Washington, DC, and these photos really convey the breadth of the demonstrations in a completely different way.

January 20, 2005

Thank Goodness the Media is Looking Out for Us!

When we edited and posted Jeff Shaw's recent story on the dangerous chemical perchlorate, I didn't actually have a good idea of how poorly other media outlets had covered the recent findings of the National Academies of Science, allegedly providing more lenient findings after a heavy lobbying campaign by the Defense Department on behalf of its beloved contractors. But now that I have taken a look on Google News, I am all the more proud of the story Jeff put together for us. The way others handled the subject is simply astounding. Here's a brief review...

WARNING: Severe sarcasm ahead!

» Continue reading "Thank Goodness the Media is Looking Out for Us!"

January 13, 2005

Getting the Story When the Subject Plugs His Ears

I really, really wanted to get Special Counsel Scott Bloch's side of this story. I don't feel obligated to provide equal time to authoriatarian government elites, but I do feel obligated to give them a chance to answer simple questions. So I called and emailed Mr. Bloch's spokesperson, Cathy Deeds, a number of times over about 36 hours. We even delayed running the story to give her a chance to respond. At one point, I threw a "Hail Mary" and just sent her the questions I wanted to ask. They're really simple and straightforward. I thought our readers might be interested in seeing some of the questions we do not get direct answers to...

» Continue reading "Getting the Story When the Subject Plugs His Ears"

January 2, 2005

TNS Turns 1 Year Old!

Since January 2nd marks The NewStandard's first birthday, we have twice the excuse to do a requisite year-in-review retrospective. Looking back on the 1,300 news items we've published in the past 12 months, it is hard to pick out just a few as our favorites. But with special thanks to those of you have supported us since before we launched the site 366 days ago, we wish to present a small sample of what we have accomplished in our first year.

» Continue reading "TNS Turns 1 Year Old!"

December 27, 2004

What We Are Busy With

The NewStandard will be publishing on a reduced schedule during the final week of 2004 so staff can focus on behind-the-scenes work such as fundraising, bookkeeping, technology upgrades, maintenance and the like. We have a number of excellent stories that reporters are working on, which we expect to publish throughout this week. But many of our journalists expressed the desire to reduce schedules for most of December, and TNS editors will be focused more on generating necessary funds than generating content. We know all our readers and supporters will understand, and we look forward to coming back stronger than ever on January 2, one year to the day after we launched The NewStandard.

December 24, 2004

Filling in the Blanks (or, Just What the FBI Thinks it is Hiding)

A significant part of my job as Middle East editor consists of scouring government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, looking for juicy tidbits to report on. Once in a while I sit up straight in my chair, wipe the glaze from my eyes, and let out a yelp, thinking I've found something substantial. More often than not it turns out to be nothing.

But the other day, while going through the huge batch of FBI and other government documents revealed this week by the ACLU, which we've reported on here and here, my co-editor, Jessica, read out loud a list of techniques interrogators had used on Iraqi prisoners:

...strangulation, beatings, placement of lit cigarettes into the detainees ear openings, and unauthorized interrogations...

I experienced a hiccup of recognition after a moment of deja vu gave way to a confirmed memory of a story we ran in The NewStandard last summer.

» Continue reading "Filling in the Blanks (or, Just What the FBI Thinks it is Hiding)"

December 21, 2004

Don't Believe the Denials

I see the Washington Post is playing fast and loose with reality on this story. When we put this piece together, we intentionally segregated the Abu Ghraib/Iraq documents that were released Monday from the Afghanistan/Guantanamo documents releaed at the same time. We'll handle the latter in a separate story.

But most outlets did not make the distinction. That's fine, of course, if they know how to separate disparate stories within the same article. But the Post took a different approach:

» Continue reading "Don't Believe the Denials"

December 20, 2004

New Section Added!

We are feeling pretty positive about our December membership drive, so we thought we would reward people who have already signed up to support TNS and entice the rest of you by adding a new section: Environment and Health. We have been aware for a while now that a number of stories in our Civil Liberties and Business sections would fit better in a section of their own, and we have turned down countless pitches for excellent environment- and health-related stories because they did not fit an existing section. Now they have a home, and we can expand our coverage to important areas.

We are still in the process of recategorizing the articles that fit in the new section, so please bear with us as we move things around between sections during the next several days.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.