The NewStandard News, an exciting project in participatory management and well-researched, investigative journalism, shut its doors on April 27, 2007. After nearly three and a half years online, they closed shop. In their own words: "TNS never gained the level of support needed to provide sustainable jobs and to develop the readership it needed to thrive." Read the rest of their letter announcing the closure here: http://newstandardnews.net/
Also read a Eulogy for The NewStandard by COA News editor Steve Anderson, who reveals "multifarious ways TNS broke the independent media mold." Keep reading this insightful analysis here. Listen to this radio interview with TNS collective member Brian Dominick.
To add to this discussion about media, and what TNS did, I’d like to write about my own interactions and work with TNS, as it exhibits the way in which the impact of their work extended beyond producing excellent news.
Going into 2004, as a "freelancing" journalist for independent media outlets, I was penniless and tired of working for disrespectful editors for little or no pay. I traveled around the US and South America writing for a few dollars, or maybe a t-shirt or magazine subscription. It was often isolating and demoralizing. I would hitch rides to protests, interview people from pay phones, doing what work I could to keep going. I enjoyed it most of the time. However, the lack of teamwork and camaraderie was pushing me out of journalism. The "industry" was too harsh.
I reported for The NewStandard News for the first time from the G8 Summit in Georgia in 2004 on the impact the security militarization had on local residents. Reporting on this topic for TNS was inspiring. Brian Dominick and Jessica Azulay, the editors, cared about the topic, high standards and my own participation with TNS. Unlike other writing gigs, I felt like I was part of a team that respected writers and their work. The pay was comparably decent, but more than that, it boosted my morale. I continued writing on civil rights issues under the Bush administration, 2004 voting issues and more.
There were a few specific things I liked about working with them. The payment system – which was based on how much work went into an article, rather than how long it was – worked well. There was also a sense that I was part of an exciting new collaborative media project. I felt like I was kind of on the same level as the editors, rather than being some exploited freelancer bossed around by the all-powerful editor. They cared about my input, the organization was horizontally organized. TNS also practiced solidarity in their work. Whereas other media outlets often had a competitive, individualist attitude, TNS was always happy to reach out to share technical skills and advice.
My collaboration with TNS happened at just the right time. It was at a moment when I was about to give up on independent journalism and go to grad school instead. Working with TNS showed the importance of working collaboratively with editors and fellow reporters. It inspired me to keep working and apply some of the TNS skills and philosophies to media projects I was involved with or started, specifically, Upside Down World, which has since gone on to become a collective of editors. I went on to write a book, "The Price of Fire" with AK Press, a similarly collectively run organization. None of this probably would have happened without the key intervention of TNS at the right moment. TNS was committed to strengthening a community of media makers, and the loss of their organization will be felt among that community.
So that’s one journalist’s story of an interaction with TNS. I am sure others have similar stories. I didn’t even get into the impact of their hard news reporting. Let’s just say that, sadly, many corporate CEOs, politicians, mean bosses and environmental polluters are probably sleeping better now that TNS has closed. And that’s not a good thing.