Collective Blog

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

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

November 17, 2006

TNS T-Shirt Design Contest

Now that The NewStandard has broken new ground in journalism, want to help us set a trend in fashion, too?

The TNS T-shirt design contest offers you a chance to show off your skills and create a logo that our news junkies can wear with pride.

» Continue reading "TNS T-Shirt Design Contest"

Extended Thanksgiving Break

The American holiday of Thanksgiving arrives this Thursday, and The NewStandard collective will be taking a collective vacation. After working unspeakable hours without a significant break for the last year, we are nearing or experiencing burnout.

Many of our readers have urged us to work less, but we often talk ourselves out of taking the time off that we need, individually and as a group. Indeed, when we take personal vacation time, the other five full-timers have to increase their own workloads. We are afraid our work will slip if we don’t claim some breathing room here and there, and since we expect the next week to be slow on news and site traffic, we’re going to bow out for a full five days to clear our heads.

The NewStandard will be back on Monday, November 27 with fresh content, and shortly after that we expect to start revealing the new website features we’ve had in the works for some time now. We thank our readers and supporters in advance for your understanding and look forward to a time when our staff is large enough that momentary decompressions won’t interrupt publishing.

NewStandard Collective

Following Leads Nowhere

No matter what their intentions are, advocacy groups and progressive organizations can dish out propaganda as easily as government agencies and corporations can. And when that happens, you can count on The NewStandard to be equally skeptical of all sources.

Case in point: The Institute for Public Accuracy, an organization that strives to give "media access" to marginalized groups, sent us a press release listing professors and activists expressing alarm at the representative Democrats are expected to elect to chair the House International Relations Committee.

In the statement, critics of Tom Lantos (D-Cali.) say his hawkish views and avid support for Israel will make attempts to avoid military action difficult.

There could be legitimate concerns about Lantos’ leadership in this committee. But they can’t be found in the exaggerated claims made in the IPA release. Upon researching the claims, I found that at the end of the day, Lantos is likely no different from any other Democrat. Here are the claims IPA-commissioned sources make in both the press release and in interviews I conducted:

» Continue reading "Following Leads Nowhere"

November 9, 2006

Tuesday's voting mishaps

Though the polls have closed, some groups are continuing their efforts to document and illuminate the problems voters encountered this election year. The political action group is offering a $250,000 reward for new material evidence of organized voter suppression tactics or electronic voting fraud that leads to a felony conviction.

The group is also collecting evidence of long lines and broken machines and disproportionate impacts in African-American communities.

» Continue reading "Tuesday's voting mishaps"

November 6, 2006

Project Censored report-back

Last weekend, I attended the first-ever Media Accountability Conference, hosted by the progressive media-research group Project Censored, which publishes an annual compendium of underreported news stories. The group is based out of Sonoma State University in California. Project Censored has been publishing its list of underreported stories for three decades now; and this year, it put on a full event for media makers and activists to rub shoulders and bump heads on a variety of interesting panels.

» Continue reading "Project Censored report-back"

November 1, 2006

Analytical Assertions in TNS Articles

A reader recently wrote in to question an assertion in staff reporter Megan Tady’s article last week, "Supreme Court Lifts Injunction on Arizona Voter ID Law." The second paragraph stated: "Opponents of the law say it will disenfranchise legitimate voters, particularly low-income people, the elderly and people of color. The law is aimed mostly at immigrants."

As a policy, we make brief, analytical assertions in narrative text only when they are overwhelmingly supported by conclusive evidence. Otherwise, we attribute them to human sources, or we explain them in greater detail.

» Continue reading "Analytical Assertions in TNS Articles "

October 31, 2006

New ION Writer Joins TNS Staff

Careful readers of TNS's In Other News segment will have noticed a new pair of initials adorning some of the bulletins we've published in the last couple days: GV. I'm very pleased to announce that a new contributor, Gabriel Voiles, has joined our staff as a part-time writer responsible for gathering and writing ION bulletins weekday mornings.

» Continue reading "New ION Writer Joins TNS Staff"

October 29, 2006

TNS Wins Journalistic Awards

We are pleased to announce that two NewStandard stories from 2005 have been recognized by Project Censored, a Sonoma State University media research group that tracks stories in independent media. Each year, Project Censored chooses 25 "censored" stories and publishes them in a book.

Brendan Coyne’s "New Report Shows Increase in Urban Hunger, Homelessness" took the number four slot. And Michelle Chen’s "Pentagon Seeks Greater Immunity from Freedom of Information" came in at number eight. We want to congratulate our two staff reporters from 2005 for each winning this prestigious award.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the rest of the TNS staff reporters and freelancer contributors. All of them consistently tell readers about under-reported issues with very little recognition or compensation, and we are so grateful for the work they do.

To see some of our favorite stories from that year, click here.

California or Bust: TNS at Project Censored Conference

TNS is pleased to announce that on November 3 and 4, we will be officially recognized for our muckraking skills at the Media Accountability Conference and Real News Awards Celebration in Rohnert Park, California. The event will be hosted by the award’s sponsors, Project Censored, a media-research organization based at Sonoma State University.

I will be a panelist at the event along with former TNS staff journalist and awardee Brendan Coyne (see our other post on the award-winning articles). We’re excited to share the spotlight with Will Durst, Greg Palast and others on the indy-media A-List.

For those who can’t make the trek to Sonoma State, I’ll be blogging from the conference.

If you are in the area or plan to attend, please say stop by and say “hi.� While we’ll have fun burnishing our Project Censored award statuettes, what we really look forward to at events like this is the opportunity to connect with others who share our commitment to real journalism.

More details on the censored stories list and the conference can be found on the Project Censored website.

October 22, 2006

Who Studied DuPont’s Study?

When the headline "DuPont study: PFOA no risk," caught my attention last week in the online edition of Today’s Sunbeam, the daily in Salem, New Jersey, I decided to investigate to see whether this issue would make a good TNS news brief. The article by staff writer Andrew Frankum unquestioningly cited the study’s findings several times and only included quotes from DuPont officials.

Hmmm, I thought, no critics of this internal and supposedly conclusive (according to the Sunbeam’s headline) study finding there are no ill health affects from PFOA, a controversial chemical used to make Teflon-coated products, outdoor clothing and stain-resistant carpets? There must be more to this story.

» Continue reading "Who Studied DuPont’s Study?"

October 18, 2006

Hard to Find Answers

When I spoke to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week for the article TNS published Monday on the developments in the case of FitzPatrick nuclear plant and whistleblower Carl Patrickson, I asked spokesperon Scott Burnell why the NRC came to such a different conclusion than the Department of Labor in their investigation of Patrickson’s claim. While the NRC found that the evidence did not substantiate Patrickson’s claims of discrimination for reporting safety problems, the DOL found exactly the opposite. (Entergy appealed the DOL’s decision.)

Burnell couldn’t respond because he said he was unfamiliar with the NRC's findings, which he also said is not a public document. I asked him to review the document and summarize the reasons behind NRC’s conclusion and on Monday, after the article was published, this is what he sent:


» Continue reading "Hard to Find Answers"

October 11, 2006

More on Independent Media Solidarity

Since just about our earliest days online, a few other media organizations have stood by us. Most rejected The NewStandard for various reasons. I think a lot of places looked at us and saw no famous or well-connected names, no money, a lack of "sexy" stories or pieces that reaffirmed their favored ideology, too many women and people of color, and they just turned their backs. Many of them to this day refuse to acknowledge our existence.

The people at one media organization that we didn't even know existed got what we do right away. Not only did they make a point of supporting us, they made The NewStandard a central feature of their own work. COA News is a "portal" site that connects people interested in independent news media to sites and groups that produce it. COA stands for Currents of Awareness, and while they generate little of their own content, their primary purpose is to build bridges between people hungry for news, and news outlets hungry for thoughtful audiences. In other words, they're kind of the ultimate alternative-media solidarity organization. Indeed, they're the polar opposite of nearly all alternative media I've encountered in my 13 years doing this kind of work.

» Continue reading "More on Independent Media Solidarity"

October 7, 2006

Citgo, Chavez, and Unanswered Questions

After a hiatus due to our fundraising drive, we're now picking up on where we left off with our reader responses.

In response to the article on Citgo’s indictment for environmental crimes in Corpus Christi (9/1), reader Jim Pavonka wrote that he was:
… astonished… that an article this detailed would not mention that Citgo is owned by PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company; or that relationships between Venezuela, the Chavez administration in that country, and the Bush administration in the US are a bit strained, and have been for some time. It seems possible that the indictment of Venezuela's oil refinery before and instead of any other refinery might be a reflection of the current state of relations between the governments of the two countries.

» Continue reading "Citgo, Chavez, and Unanswered Questions"

September 27, 2006

TNS Story Graveyard: 'Bad People' vs. Bad Legislation

Here lies one of the crucial news topics that may never be probed by a hard-hitting, progressive independent news outlet if TNS is unable to reach its pledge goal...

According to the mainstream headlines, the ink is almost dry on a Senate bill to authorize military tribunals for terrorism suspects, or as one senator put it, "to make sure these bad people are brought to justice."

The details now being ironed out include gutting detainees’ constitutional right to judicial review, and applying the label "enemy combatant" to anyone who is not in combat, but has somehow "supported hostilities" toward the Bush administration.

And in paragraph 11 of the Washington Post’s coverage, it becomes clear that those finer points may be moot anyway, because under the bill, the Defense Secretary can override its provisions whenever doing so is considered "practicable or consistent" with the military’s mission.

If TNS could tackle the bill this week, we would, as always, shift the focus from what politicians call "justice" for "bad people" – onto how the legislation might codify military impunity. And you’d get that news up front, not ten paragraphs down.

Contribute today, and help us continue putting issues that matter in perspective.

» Continue reading "TNS Story Graveyard: 'Bad People' vs. Bad Legislation"

TNS Story Graveyard: Dearth of doctors

Here lies one of the crucial news topics that may never be probed by a hard-hitting, progressive independent news outlet if TNS is unable to reach its pledge goal...

A study released by the American Academy of Family Physicians has found that the country, and five states in particular, will face a shortage of primary-care physicians in the coming years.

Most newspapers said the decline arises from medical students choosing lucrative specialty fields over general medicine, and cited the AAFP’s solution to the problem – higher medicare payments for general physicians.

But TNS would not have forgotten to mention this glut might also be a result of the American Medical Association’s capping of medical school graduates – a fact by the mainstream media in the past but ignored now. And rather than relay the AAFP’s goal of increasing reimbursements, we would have asked health policy experts what the real solutions to this problem are.

» Continue reading "TNS Story Graveyard: Dearth of doctors "

September 26, 2006

TNS Story Graveyard: While the corporate media sleeps . . .

Here lies one of the crucial news topics that may never be probed by a hard-hitting, progressive independent news outlet if TNS is unable to reach its pledge goal...

Part of our job as reporters is subscribing to – and digging through – a lot of government email notices looking for that next big story. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) sends out daily updates listing 2 to 3 new reports almost every day, in addition to official correspondence and testimony. Though TNS is deep in fundraising mode, we’re still scanning for that gem of a story buried in a government report, and on Monday, the GAO delivered one.

From the first sentence of the GAO summary:

Defense Contract Audit Agency audit reports issued between February 2003 and February 2006 identified $2.1 billion in questioned costs and $1.4 billion in unsupported costs on Iraq contracts.

The GAO also found that for about $600 million in questioned costs, "DOD contracting officials determined that the contractor should be paid for all but $38 million."

Hmmm. Three-and-a-half billion dollars in questionable and unsupported costs and many of the invoices are still being paid? Though contracting abuses have received a decent amount of coverage, including an article last week by TNS, this seems to merit some prominence on our regular news sites, right?

Guess again. A Google news search didn’t elicit any results besides a comment on the Washington Post blog quoting a column published on the Huffington Post. Had TNS been reporting this week, you would have read about this story here in a thoroughly examined, questioned and vetted fashion. So, put us back to work doing what you count on TNS to do – finding and telling the stories disregarded by other media.

» Continue reading "TNS Story Graveyard: While the corporate media sleeps . . . "

TNS Story Graveyard: Fences = Reform?

Here lies one of the crucial news topics that may never be probed by a hard-hitting, progressive independent news outlet if TNS is unable to reach its pledge goal...

After fueling protests across the country, the immigration debate is now sputtering to a standstill on Capitol Hill. According to the corporate media, the "reform" effort has now taken the shape of $21 billion in funding for immigration enforcement – with some residual debate over a proposed 700-mile border fence.

Though mainstream reporters have fixated on Washington, TNS has turned to the communities struggling for political visibility. From the everyday plight of undocumented workers to the evolution of the immigrant-rights movement, our coverage is always guided by deeper questions than just how wide to build the fence.

If TNS were to shut down, what other news outlet would amplify the voices of immigrants over the wrangling of politicians? Help us keep asking the tough questions. Pledge today.

» Continue reading "TNS Story Graveyard: Fences = Reform?"

TNS Story Graveyard: Behind the Anger at Gitmo

Here lies one of the crucial news topics that may never be probed by a hard-hitting, progressive independent news outlet if TNS is unable to reach its pledge goal...

The Associated Press reports that the US military is ramping up security at a new jailhouse for Guantánamo detainees (9-23). Why?

"[T]o protect guards after a spate of attacks and evidence that detainees have organized themselves into groups to mount uprisings, officials said."

The article then quotes a Navy officer’s description of three recent detainee suicides as "not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us."

The AP evidently considers documented suicides, hunger strikes, and other crises mere background details to highlight the official explanation of detainee resistance.

TNS has been reporting on Guantánamo since our founding, but unlike our corporate competition, we do not take government claims at face value. Our reporting has always drawn from the accounts of prisoners and their legal advocates, putting the focus on the people most affected, and most often silenced, by indefinite detention at Guantánamo.

To keep our brand of journalism alive, please contribute – and let us get back to doing what we do best!

Stay tuned for more stories that will continue to be buried if TNS dies...

September 22, 2006

Mmm. Doughnut.

Though we at TNS are currently in the throes of a major financial crisis, we haven’t lost perspective, even on our last official day of publishing.

Here is some late-breaking news that didn’t make today’s edition – about a nationwide funding crisis affecting some seven million people on this very same day: The Medicare "doughnut hole."

» Continue reading "Mmm. Doughnut."

September 21, 2006

More Than Halfway To our Goal

The suspense is killing us, but I think most of us would admit under pressure that we're doing better than we expected as we near the halfway mark in our countdown, with more than half the necessary funds already pledged.

Thank you to our nearly 100 existing Premium Members who have so far increased their already generous donations. And thank you, and welcome, to our nearly 100 new Premium Members who have pledged to support our work. Your donations have been the shot in the arm that we've needed to keep us going these next 9 days. We're thrilled that truly independent media is important to so many people. Here's to hoping that it's equally important to many more.

I'd also like to recognize some of the groups that have shown solidarity with us so far. The vast majority of fellow independent publishers we reached out to have ignored us. But we've received various forms of support from a handful: Clamor magazine, (free ad space!), ePluribus Media, Dollars & Sense, Dahr Jamail, Uprising Radio, Toward Freedom, and of course ZNet.

We've contacted dozens of other people/places, but were usually met with silence. If your favorite website or radio show isn't helping us, maybe they're waiting for your phone call or email.

» Continue reading "More Than Halfway To our Goal"

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.