NewAssignment.Net

An experiment in open-source reporting

Welcome to NewAssignment.Net

Posted by Jay Rosen on August 19, 2006

What is NewAssignment.Net?

New Assignment.Net is a non-profit site that tries to spark innovation in journalism by showing that open collaboration over the Internet among reporters, editors and large groups of users can produce high-quality work that serves the public interest, holds up under scrutiny, and builds trust.

A second aim is to figure out how to fund this work through a combination of online donations, micro-payments, traditional fundraising, syndication rights, sponsorships, advertising and any other method that does not compromise the site’s independence or reputation.

At New Assignment, pros and amateurs cooperate to produce work that neither could manage alone. The site uses open source methods to develop good assignments and help bring them to completion. It pays professional journalists to carry the project home and set high standards; they work closely with users who have something to contribute. The betting is that (some) people will donate to stories they can see are going to be great because the open methods allow for that glimpse ahead.

When will it debut?

Target date is April 1, 2007; that may shift. A proof-of-concept test is scheduled for the fall of 2006. Much depends on fundraising progress.

For whom is it intended?

New Assignment is for people who are interested in the news, online regularly and accustomed to informing themselves. It does stories the regular news media doesn’t do, can’t do, wouldn’t do, or already screwed up. And it allows for effective participation by users. The site gives out real assignments— paid gigs with a chance to practice the craft of reporting at a high level. Because they’re getting paid, the journalists who contract with New Assignment have the time—and obligation—to do things well. That means working with the users who gave rise to the assignment.

How can I find out more?

Go to PressThink, Jay Rosen’s blog. (Bio.) He’s the one who thought it up. New Assignment’s official home is New York University’s Department of Journalism, where Rosen is on the faculty. The initial description is Introducing NewAssignment.Net (July 24, 2006.) At that post and the others that followed, you will find links to reactions around the Net– and of course a comment thread.

See also these follow-up posts, Some Problems with New Assignment.Net (July 28) and How Realistic is New Assignment.Net?(Aug. 11. ) Also Exploding By-Lines: Update on NewAssignment.Net (Aug. 27) and Editing Horizontally: Thanks to Reuters, NewAssignment.Net Can Hire Someone (Sep. 20.)

And for further background check into my interview with readers of Slashdot (Oct. 3) along with The People Formerly Known as the Audience (June 27) and Users-Know-More-than-We-Do Journalism (June 22).

How can I contribute?

You can comment here, and soon you will be able to donate in modest amounts online. NewAssignment.Net will be running it’s first test in Fall 2006, so watch this site for announcements. Donors interested in contributing $1,000 or more should contact Jay Rosen via e-mail. If you’re a blogger, you can of course write a post about it. That’s a contribution

What are they saying?

Lots. Here’s the Technorati search. And here are some of the initial reactions:

The Economist: “New online models will spring up as papers retreat. One non-profit group, NewAssignment.Net, plans to combine the work of amateurs and professionals to produce investigative stories on the internet.”

Craig Newmark of Craigslist.org at his blog. “Journalism’s evolving, and we’re seeing the convergence of professional journalism and citizen journalism.

Staci Kramer at paidContent.org. “A good example of how people at all levels are grappling with ways to turn the potential of community-based journalism into reality.”

Kevin Maney of USA Today. “A terrific experiment that should teach us something about where journalism is heading.”

Stephen Spruiell at National Review’s Media Blog: “If there’s a way to improve the press that’s better than the current tug-of-war over ‘objectivity,’ we could be seeing its beginnings.”

Nicholas Lemann in the New Yorker: “The key to the idea, in Rosen’s mind, is to give ‘people formerly known as the audience’ the assigning power previously reserved for editors.”

Mark Glaser at the PBS blog Media Shift. “Perhaps there’s a way to harness the power of the easy, powerful connections we can make online to do a new kind of investigative journalism.”

Amy Gahran at Poynter’s E-Media blog. “It’s intriguing.”

Scott Rosenberg of Salon. “Old-fashioned editorial processes mesh with newfangled feedback loops and reputation systems to produce something new and unique.”

Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine. “NewAssignment will not replace the work of professional news organizations. It will complement them, attacking the stories that are not being covered.”

Andrew Nachison at Morph. “Certainly the open process will be a novel flip of the traditional approach to journalism, which itself works in some cases and not in others.”

Aaron Barlow at Daily Kos: “We citizen journalists will be watching with interest.”

Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News. “Let’s face it, the current system of investigative reporting has broken down.”

Gal Beckerman at CJR Daily. “Let’s give it a whirl.”

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122 Responses to “Welcome to NewAssignment.Net”

  1. Amy Gahran said

    Hey Jay, congrats on getting the site running.

    Can I toss an idea out there? Having thousands of eyes on the chemical-transport-by-rail safety issue? A HUGE hole in the whole homeland security thing…

    - Amy Gahran

  2. Jay,

    I’ve already linked to this site from my blog.

    Like other citizen journalists, I will be watching with great interest in how this project develops.

  3. Here’s an assignment that could use some citizen journalists: The Sunlight Foundation, which co-sponsors Congresspedia along with my own organization (the Center for Media and Democracy), is trying to get help in researching earmarks, the means by which Congress can bypass the executive branch and designate specific blocks of money to go to specific programs or contractors. Earmarks are a common tool for corrupt practices in Congress and provide much of the “pork” in pork-barrel politics.

    We’d love it if NewAssignment.net could help provide a tool for bringing the efforts of citizen journalists to bear on researching this topic. For those who are interested, here’s a link to get you started.

  4. Edward Bland said

    As a amateur photojournalist and CPA, I hope that this site evolves into a great outlet for those of us capable of creating high quality content, even though we may not be employed in the traditional media!

    Best regards,

    Edward

  5. Jake said

    Could this be a source of news that simply delivers the facts in contrast to the wire service and newspaper reporting that is so often tainted by a particular world view? Can a universtiy professor be the catalyst that brings straight news to the public? You’ll have to wield a strong rod over contributors who want to let their personal views seep into their reporting. As the professor might say: “quality is job one”.

  6. metamars said

    Good luck with NewAssignment.Net! There are many serious topics that are crying to be covered, but the corporate-owned media ignores these subjects. In my view, one of the biggest stories of today is the Depleted Uranium scandal, that will have consequences that last millenia. Where, oh where, is the wonderful media on this topic? They should not only cover this, but give it legs. Their reticence is at least the moral equivalent of a war crime….

    I have posted a proposal on the Randi Rhodes show forum for replacing our current media with a new, sustainable media that facilitates the selection of “filtering agents”. You can think of these as honest gatekeepers that YOU trust – and that keep out trivial information, rather than very important information that groups with economic and other hidden agendas prefer to hide from you.

    Broadband access is now up to 42% in the US, so it is quite possible to target TELEVISION, which is how about 48% of Americans get 30+ minutes of news per day (as opposed to only about 9% over the internet). See http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=282

    The thread is entitled: “Putting the NY Times Out of Business”
    The thread is subtitled: “Proposal to replace ALL corrupt media”

    Link:
    http://forums.therandirhodesshow.com/index.php?showtopic=76406

    PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO ANYBODY WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED

  7. metamars said

    Have you considered newprogressivecoalition.org as a funding source? This organization seeks to hook up investors in progressive causes with organizations that need the funding.

    They are up to 182 organization members and 217 investor members from 30 states, but have only been around for about a year. Not bad, I’d say.

  8. [...] Now I agree Jay Rosen’s (NYU) NewAssignment.net website is a really good idea. But shouldn’t we wait and see what they come up with before everybody starts raving about it. There is nothing on the site yet! [...]

  9. How about spotlighting the indigent defense system and how unfair the legal system is on poor people?

    I can ignite the spark on this one.

  10. DT said

    I suppose you have heard of the french initiative called Agoravox (www.agoravox.fr), which, by the way, has now an english-speaking version.
    Unlike yours, it does not seek funds and contributors are volonteers. Surprisingly, the level of contributions is rather high and it is a great opportunity for debate.
    Now, it is also true that most articles are more opinion-oriented than informative because no one will dedicate time or money to investigate. However, some specialists have things to say that the public would not find out by itself. On the whole, it ends up being informative to some extent.

  11. Jay Rosen said

    I have heard of and seen Agoravox, yes, but did not know of plans for the English edition. Thanks.

    Metamars: thanks for that tip on the New Progressive Coaltion. I checked into it.

    Edward: I’d imagine that an amateur photographer and CPA could help a lot, yes.

    Sheldon: I wrote extensively about that project at at PressThink, and I said it’s very much in the spirit of NewAssignment.Net.

    Amy: I mentioned your suggestion at a new PressThink post.

  12. The key thing to me, a retired newspaperperson, is that there are, I would guess, hundreds of us our there that would dearly love to be turned loose on a good honest projedt. We were what could be called pros, and we are sitting here, idle, dinking about with this and that, and want to return to the action. So we used to be in the MSM, but don’t discount us, we will work for nothing, as many of us agreed, in esence,to do when we went to work on newspapers in the first instance. almacleese,hallowellmaine.

  13. [...] I am very excited about this project NewsAssignments.net if only because I see it as a fantastic model for publishing in general. If it works for news I can see no reason why it will not work for books of all kinds! [...]

  14. Congrats on getting the new site up,
    I too will be watching with interest.

  15. James Bruni said

    Jay,

    Congrats on the NewsAssignment.net launch. You are pushing the envelope of participatory journalism.

  16. Grayson said

    This is such a great concept! If I win the lottery in the next few weeks, I’ll be sure to earmark a big ‘ole hunk o cash for NewsAssignment.net. (I’ll finish that documentary I started too., etc.) Until then… how about an assignment suggestion?

    Rogue development/developers are moving on historically critical areas of our country. While I only know specifics and details for my own backyard, there are certainly loads of other historic sites and lands threatened with hideous development projects across the country.

    A variety of interested parties could contribute to an effort to highlight threats to historically valuable property. I know the topic of rogue development doesn’t garner too much attention, since the big-ass, high-density developers work quickly at their purchases, without benefit of press, but with massive amounts of $$$ instead. (The NYTimes Magazine did an excellent cover story though not too long ago. I’d link you to it, but it’s long been archived.) Who knows what, if any, impact that piece had, however? I wish there was a way to better measure the results of good journalism, but that’s a bit off-topic.

    I blogged a bit last year on the matter in the SC Lowcountry area. And I reference the Charleston (SC) newspaper, the Post and Courier, which has been pretty good at trying to keep attention on rampant growth and outrageous development plans in the South Carolina Lowcountry area. They could sure use some help.

    http://spaceygreview.blogspot.com/2005/06/stop-high-density-development-and.html

  17. lemi4 said

    Will NewAssignment.Net be a solely US effort, or are there any international plans?

  18. Helen said

    I only recently came across the idea that newassignment.net is experimenting with after reading this week’s issue of “The Economist”, but I checked out some of your links of related sites and have to ask…what makes newassignment.net different from those listed sites like nowpublic or newsvine?

    It’s an interesting concept, nonetheless, and I look forward to seeing this site progress :)

  19. Anon said

    there are, I would guess, hundreds of us our there that would dearly love to be turned loose on a good honest project.” – Alan Macleese

    I seem to recall that there was an organization for retired business owners/executives, who were willing to provide advice if a small business owner wanted it.

    It would be wonderful if there were a similar organization for investigative journalism.

  20. [...] An aggregated effort to create the future: http://newassignment.wordpress.com/2006/08/19/welcome-to-newassignmentnet/#more-3 [...]

  21. Jay,

    Congratulations on venturing out there, and I think congratulations are due just on the venture alone!

    One thing I’ve been thinking about in terms of citizen contributions and credibility is ways in which we can find methods of confirmation that are trustworthy — in journalism, the item of trustworthiness is character. However, that isn’t the only truth-measuring mechanism out there. In law, for example, the fact a lawyer says something is true is not sufficient proof — a witness is needed, or, when paper is acceptable, a notarized statement. Notaries are everywhere — at every corner bank, for one — and it occurs to me that using notaries for statements in articles allows for a very high degree of reliability. If I’m a citizen doing an article on Katrina, for example, I could write down what someone said, and then get it notarized and signed. It may sound a little bizarre, but in cases when the solidity of information is really important, it may be worth looking to rules of evidence as a guide to how another truth-seeking system in our society has come to terms with proof.

  22. Anna Haynes said

    IMO Zephyr’s ‘notary public’ idea is excellent.

    An observation -

    The “swarm journalism” form is tailor-made for surveys where the desired respondents aren’t likely to step up to the plate and participate unless they’re asked by someone who’s connected to them (via geography, constituency, etc)

    The Earmarks Project is one instance of this.

    Another instance – we’ve got an “An Inconvenient Truth” project going in our (semi-rural) county, encouraging and offering tickets to public figures to see the film (here for 7+ weeks), and now going back to see who _did_ go, what they thought of it, and whether they think global warming is an urgent issue.
    (“we” being two major contributors and several less active ones)

    Maybe a variant of this project could be extended to other areas?

    (and it’d be interesting for comparison, to a followup (if one were to be done) to the “100 climatologists” AP story – when that story was published, only 19(?) of the 100 had seen the film, presumably now the number’s much larger so the results (and diff, if any) would be illuminating )

    The main question would be “how do public servants’ views on global warming match up with climatologists’ views”?

    Alternatively, we could survey selected bloggers.

    (p.s. any chance we could get a “preview” button, on this “submit a comment” page?)

  23. Anna Haynes said

    And a food for thought -

    There are a lot of “do-gooder” organizations floating around, that presumably have members doing good.

    The Earmarks Project does not appear to be yielding an overwhelming response.

    Nobody I talk to locally has heard of it.

    It might be good network-j strategy to think about what organizations already exist, whose members are active and would share an interest in taking part.
    (rather like the Interfaith Power and Light nationwide(?) initiative for congregations to screen An Inconvenient Truth and other global warming films in October)

  24. Jay Rosen said

    This is ported over from PressThink.

    Your ideas are very interesting, and I hope it all works. I have one question, though, based upon what happens so often in blogs, what happens when someone posts something which is not true, meaning, a fact. How will you know whether the information is verifiable in some way? How will you verify it?

    Posted by: margaret at August 30, 2006 10:10 PM | Permalink

    Margaret: your question about verification is a key operating challenge for NewAssignment.Net. There is not going to be one answer to it, but the answers we do find will be basic to making the thing work. It would be criminally naive to just assume that what you get from citizen contributors is true. But New Assignment won’t be starting from zero. Other sites that rely on such contributors have had to figure out reliability measures that work for them.

    The simplest answer is: everything gets fact-checked before it is published as finished work, which is closer to the way good magazine journalism works. (Fact checking could itself be a volunteer task.) This allows the site to collect “unverified” information, to label it as such for an interim period, and then to change that designation as we grow more confident in it. Another answer: reliability ratings for contributors that over time tell you who can be trusted. Some stories will rely on networks of people we know from having worked with them before, so we won’t be re-inventing the verification wheel each time.

    Third answer: redundancy systems. More than one person on a given assignment allows you to cross check what contributors give you. Here’s Zephyr Teachout at the NewAssignment site with another answer: notarized statements. Who knows? Maybe we’ll experiment with our own version of “sworn” statements.

    Shouldn’t the site treat facts supplied by a user whose real name, working email address and phone number we know (stored confidentially, of course) differently from facts supplied by an anonymous user we have no way of contacting? Of course it should, and it will.

    Through a mix of different systems, the problem can, I think, be solved. But the way it’s actually going to be solved is case by case, project by project, measure by measure.

    What some do is come upon a problem like this, throw up their proverbial hands because they don’t see an easy solution, and from there it’s a straight shot to: “It can’t work. You can’t trust information collected by just anyone…”

    What they’re skipping over is the problem-solving stage, where we try to go from bug to feature.

  25. Anna Haynes said

    Another suggestion – request and report disclosures from an impartially selected set of bloggers, e.g. the top 100 by traffic. We contact them, ask the same questions of each, and compile and report the results and refusals.

    For example, at least one “tech products” blog proprietor gets a good income from payola, but doesn’t disclose this on the site; how common is this practice?

  26. Dan Maceda said

    Here’s an assignment
    Find out which reporters from which news media were at the two events mentioned by Charles Pierce at Tapped
    “The profession lost its mind in 2000, with very unfortunate consequences. There was the War on Gore, which I witnessed first-hand when the vice president got heckled and booed by some of the people watching him on TV in the press room at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Iowa. (Oh, yes, you did, kids, just the way you did in Hanover later on.)”
    Then ask their editors and publishers what they did about it and how they view it?
    This was also covered at the Daily Howler

  27. I am waiting for the launch of your project. As a writer based in the Philippines, you will give us a lot of opportunity to express views not found in the traditional media.

  28. Keith Chau said

    Very nice to see this platform. As a Chinese teaching in university, is it possible to post idea in Chinese. May I share some management idea in this net?

  29. Amanda said

    My suggestions for a good NA assignment:

    1) Geographically replicable. Don’t examine a strange little quirk in California law. Look at an issue that is pretty much the same in every state (or every town). That will widen the pool of potential contributers (NA is still going to need to recruit hard) AND potential audiences (what did they say about MY state?).

    2) Inarguable. Amount of state money spent on X, number of arrests made, outcome of a court case — these are not spin-able outcomes. I think NA needs to start out collecting data that its opponents (and even the skeptics) won’t be able to question. There is plenty of room for analysis of nuances surrounding the factual data, but start with something that has one right answer.

    3) Time-sensitive. Not a breaking news story — NA’s going to have a learning curve, and you don’t want to waste resources. But also not something with no defined end, because even enthusiastic contributers will need a prod and to get any mainstream news coverage you’ll need a hook. Pick a time period, pick a legislative session, pick an annual budget…whatever. But define it.

    4) Personal relevance. I’m a little less sure of this one, but in 15 years of being part of online communities I continue to be amazed at how parochial we all are, in the best sense of the word. You’re not Consumer Reports, but there’s a big difference between a NA report on, say, how states differ in prosecuting terrorism; and how airlines differ in handling baggage. The former affects a tiny percentage of people, disproportionately non-white and non-rich. The latter affects a huge, more-representative swath of the American population on a regular basis.

    This is getting long. Will post a follow-up comment with a few ideas.

  30. Amanda said

    Ideas:

    1) What’s going on with lost baggage? In Philadelphia, delays this summer of in getting luggage have stretched past the two-hour mark, for no apparent reason. (See this .) Imagine NA recruiting business travelers to track the number of minutes it takes baggage to appear on the carousel. A single data point tells us nothing, but 800 business travelers reporting on four or five flights a week tells us a whole lot. You might even be able to hook in a safety angle — are bags sitting unattended for hours on end?

    2) Review of legal outcomes in some specific kind of case. This was recently done with asylum seekers. In theory, immigration judges all over the country are applying the same standards and the same law to every person seeking asylum. In practice, judges vary in the rate at which they grant asylum, denying between 10% and 98% of claims. (AP article reprinted here.)

    3) Follow the money on some specific budget line item. Most of the states have vanity license plate programs now. How many different kinds of plates does each state offer? How much money do they earn? How much goes to charity and how much to the state? What happens to the state money — does it go into the general fund or for some specific use? The outrage factor on this one is probably lower, but who knows. Someone told me that the Virgina anti-terrorism license plate actually gives ZERO money to anti-terrorism work.

    (For a politically progressive example of this kind of analysis, see the work of the State Fiscal Analysis Initiative.)

  31. Amanda said

    Argh, sorry about the runaway formatting. Corrected links here:

    Luggage article: http://phlairline.com/news/09010602.html

    Asylum article: http://www.libertypost.org/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=152603

  32. rba said

    Recommend consistency. Pick the interval: daily, weekly, monthly, but at least maintain that highly motivating – and totally scary – looming deadline. With the type of enterprise you’re working to establish here, it is *very* easy to gather a massive amount of information with little-to-no value.

    And what the hell, “why” and “how” are such small words, why not include them as elements in the stories you’ll produce. We get enough of the “4Ws” elsewhere.

  33. Farq N. Oaf said

    You just gained international coverage, Jay, so please consider less America centric stories (I mean, sheesh, what ever happens in America anymore?)

  34. Jeroen said

    Good luck!

  35. What is in it for my part of the world? Will the journalists here, professional or amateur, be able to contribute or be just at the receving end.

    M. A. Hameed
    Lahore, Pakistan

  36. Byron said

    I hope to be able to participate in this journalism revolution of sorts. The marriage of amateur and professional is a long time and coming, IMO. The only difference between an A and a B student is the B student needs more enticement. Maybe this is it.

  37. Jan said

    I can’t wait to donate and contribute to this worthy project.

  38. narnia said

    I’m most interested in the necessity of editors: what provokes the distrust that incites their existence. Why can’t the content produced stand alone. If, say, you were to provide a platform upon which individual stories/pieces can stand and then be ranked and passed along willy nilly by the users of that very content? Current.tv,Youtube.com, and even delicious employ this model in different ways. Yet, there remains a lingering fear that the basest, most vulgar material rises with the most interesting/informative. Its a chilling effect that causes concern for the quality of the user generated content. Will Newsassignment deliminate thresholds of worthy material? What are the parameters? Who are the “trusted” (as someone said)?

    One might say that editors serve the role as guide and arbitor’s — navigational assistants — and as such their input would be minimal. But, at the same time, why not satiate these interests and desires? If myspace has taught us anything its that the larger the contributing population the more crap there is to sift through. Why do we, in the end, feel that we need to divert attention to real news? Aren’t we going to look for the video of the guy getting hit in the groin anyway?

  39. [...] From the comments at the previous post comes this from Allan Macleese: The key thing to me, a retired newspaperperson, is that there are, I would guess, hundreds of us our there that would dearly love to be turned loose on a good honest project. We were what could be called pros, and we are sitting here, idle, dinking about with this and that, and want to return to the action. So we used to be in the MSM, but don’t discount us, we will work for nothing, as many of us agreed, in esence,to do when we went to work on newspapers in the first instance. [...]

  40. Hing Lum said

    America’s and, perhaps, some of the world’s largest banks, year-in year-out, every one of them swears they have integrity and are honest and will act with integrity and honesty. Yet they have been lying about one of the most basic aspect of banking. The banks have been announcing fraudulent prime rates for more than 20 years. By misrepresenting the true prime rate, they have been stealing billions and billions of dollars from the consumers and small businesses.

    William Harrison, Jr, Chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase writes in its annual report in his letter to shareholders, that

    “ In essence, we strives to:

    · Act with integrity and honor.
    · Do the right thing, not necessarily the easy or expedient thing. …”

    PNC’s Chairman, James E. Rohr, writes in his letter to shareholders:

    “Clearly, common sense, good judgment and our seven core values – customer focus, performance, integrity, respect, diversity, teamwork and quality of life – serve as a solid foundation for our everyday practice. You should also be aware that we have longstanding adherence to the highest of ethical standards. …”

    In Citicorp’s annual report, it states

    “We have a responsibility to our clients.

    We must put our clients first, provide superior advice, products and services and always act with highest level of integrity.”

    In Citicorp, all 13 Director signed a letter to Citigroup Colleague stating:

    “… Each one of us is personally responsible for maintaining the highest level of integrity and honesty in our sphere of control at Citigroup so that we can continue to serve people throughout the world …”

    Further, in the introduction to its Annual Report,

    “Citigroup expects all of its representatives to act in accordance with the highest standards of personal and professional integrity in all aspects of their activities and to comply with all applicable laws, regulations and company polices. We must never compromise that integrity, either for personal benefit or for Citigroup’s purposed benefit….”

    In Bank of America’s annual report, it states:

    “Through our Code of Ethics, we set a high standard for our associates. The Code of Ethics provides a framework for all of our associates to conduct themselves with the highest integrity in the delivery of our products or services to our customers.”

    In Wachovia’s Code of Conduct and Ethics starts out stating:

    “UNCOMPROMISING INTEGRITY

    DEAR WACHOVIA TEAMMATE:

    Wachovia is committed to uncompromising integrity. We do what we say. We communicate with candor. We admit our mistakes. We are people who take pride in our trustworthiness.

    Integrity is key in action as well as intention. …”

    Wells Fargo states in its Code of Ethics and Business Conduct:

    “ III. Act with Honesty, Integrity and Trustworthiness

    “To preserve and foster the public’s trust and confidence, complete honesty and fairness is required in conducting internal and external business. It’s important that every Wells Fargo team member understand that honesty, trust and integrity essential for meeting with highest standards of corporate governance are not just the responsibility of senior management or boards of directors. We all share that responsibility. … To have integrity one must be consistently honest and trustworthy in everything one does. … It’s knowing what you have to do without someone telling you to do it. …”

    In U. S. Bancorp’s Corporate Governance, Jerry Grundhofer, Chairman writes:

    “Fellow Shareholders:

    Throughout its history, U.S. Bancorp has operated with a tradition of uncompromising honesty and integrity. …”

    In U.S. Bancorp’s Code of Ethics, it states

    “U. S. Bancorp places the highest importance on honesty and integrity.”

    In Key Corp’s Code of Ethics, it states:

    “The KeyCorp Code of Ethics is a compilation of basic principles of conduct for which you, as a KeyCorp director or employee, are responsible. These principles are the basic values upon which KeyCorp’s customers and others who deal with KeyCorp have come to rely: integrity and honesty in KeyCorp’s provision of financial services.”

    The prime rate is the interest rate banks charge their biggest and best customers. This is a practice the banks instituted since the beginning of modern banking. It is a definition that the banks provided to customers (most recently in their websites). Only banks issue or announce prime rates. Manufacturing companies do not issue prime rates. Consumer products companies do not issue prime rates. Pharmaceutical companies do not issue prime rates. Automotive and aerospace companies do not issue prime rates. No one else in the world sets prime rate but the banks. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal only compile or sort of average the prime rate when they publish the predominant prime rate in the press.

    One would expect the bankers to know what prime rate means since it is their practice and their institution. Yet these bankers who claim to have the highest integrity and honesty have been telling the U.S. Courts that they are confused by the definition of prime rate. They claim in Court in my challenge Hing Q. Lum et al vs. Bank of America, Citibank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Morgan Guaranty Trust, First Union, Wells Fargo, PNC, Bank One, US Bank and J. P. Morgan Chase Bank that the “prime rate” is meaningless. These banks claim that they can announce anything they like as the “prime rate” and they should legally allowed to charge us that rate and take our money as long as it flows thru the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. This has been going on for more than 20 years and not one person in the banking system has the integrity or honesty to do the right thing and say that this is wrong and should not be done.

    Neither has our system of government. No one in government has even attempted to challenge the banks on this prime rate issue even when they were notified of this fraud. This is not rocket science. Prime rate has a very clear meaning. These same banks often argue, when it suits their purpose, to get more money for themselves, that the prime rate is the lowest rate charged to their best customers in front of the Supreme Court. Yet, when this fraud is being challenged, they claim the meaning of prime rate is very murky. So obviously, they made it murky because they did not have the integrity or honesty that they claim they have. When the banks claim that the meaning of prime rate is murky, it is basically a confession that they committed fraud because only the banks issue prime rates. It is their practice and their institution. Who else can make it murky? If they had the integrity or honest to announce the true prime rate, each and every time, as the rate they charge their biggest and best customers, how can the meaning become murky?

    Redefining the meaning of prime rate is like redefining the word “four” as 7. In other words, if I put into a contract, you will pay me four percent interest for money I lend to you and then bill you 7%. Does this redefine the word “four”? Not in my dictionary. Four should always be 4. Anything else is just fraud. This is what the banks are trying to do. If a bank have a contract with you stating that it will charge you the “prime rate” for a loan and then, they tell you that the “prime rate” is what they charge to their biggest and best customers. Now, if the bank charged its biggest and best customers 4% but then announced to the world their prime rate is 7%. Did that change the definition of prime rate? No, the bank just committed fraud.

    The banks want to have “prime rate” redefined as whatever they want it to be. So it is okay for them to charge you a prime rate of 7% when it is really 4%. Next month, if they need more money from you, they want to change it to 8% when it is really 4% and the following year, they will change it to 9% when it is really 4%. Where is the integrity? Where is the honesty? This is what had been happening.

    For more than 20 years, these banks which have been waving the flag of integrity and honesty have been inflating the prime rate by as much as 3% more than the true prime rate. Three percent of hundreds of billions dollars of consumer and small business loans adds up to billions of dollars of extra money every year that are taken by the banks from everyone consumer’s pocket.

    Correspondingly, since all these banks are public companies under the regulation of the SEC and the Exchanges, and since they all swear that their books and financial statements are true and accurate under the Sarbane-Oxley Act, it is clear that their financial statements are false and they have been violating the Sarbane-Oxley Act since they have been lying about the prime rate all these years and will have to restate all they financials if they follow their own integrity and honesty codes of conduct. It would be funny to ask these executives when did they know that they have been lying about the prime rate. (Can you imagine that all these senior bank executives not knowing what “prime rate” means after years with these banks? If they know what it means, they must been lying about it for years and violated the integrity policy by not correcting it.)

    Do not be fooled by these banks’ claim of integrity or honesty. They have been lying to you for many years. If you have loans that are tied to the “prime rate”, you have been a victim. Its time to fight this fraud and let your representatives know you will not stand for it. If you need more information, please contact me. If you want to help fight this fraudulent behavior, forward this letter to your friends and colleagues.

  41. Maurreen Skowran said

    Jay, this is impressive and exciting.
    Here’s an idea: You could make the planning more collaborative through a wiki.

  42. Jay Rosen said

    We are definitely going to make wikis and their use integral to the way we operate, Maurreen. I think that is going to prove essential. ‘Course, it’s easy to say: Let’s use wikis. Figuring out how to use them journalistically and with particular user communities (found or made) is where the learning is. NewAssignment.Net is going to go there.

    Thanks to all who have expressed a desire to participate, contribute. It’s… inspiring. I am going to ask for your patience as we get ourselves together. We’re doing things one at a time. The rest of 2006 is going to be a building, testing and planning period, an exercise in self-definition, if you will. We’re in the pre-launch phase. I am getting organized, raising money, pulling together people to advise and help, getting started on the site, which we will bring online in stages in 2007. This isn’t it. This is just a blog we have as a starter site.

    In reply to others in this thread, we will certainly consider organizing NewAssignment.Net investigations internationally. Once we figure out exactly how we are going to operate, something that is far from settled. That’s why discussions like this thread are very worthwhile.

    I’m not sure anyone has done the kind of pro-am, open source, “distributed” reporting that I had in mind when I introduced New Assignment. But mine is just one view of how it would or could work. My advisers have been steadily modifying my ideas. Many people have brought to my attention similar or related efforts, and that has changed what NewAssignment.Net “is.” Future users will tell us a great deal; whatever community develops at the site will powerfully affect what NewAssignment.Net becomes. Volunteers, as well as donors will vote with their voices, dollars, feet… mouse clicks. There’s a lot of crucial information to come.

    I’m also planning a series of essays fleshing out NewAssignment’s principles of operation, as I see them now, pre-launch. PressThink is the right place for that, but I will also publish them here.

    For now–and I know how frustrating this is–NewAssignment.Net is still an idea (our ambition to have a site like the one I described in this post) with $20,000 in the bank, and a blog for discussing the idea. So far that is all I have to offer you. But under the surface things are moving, and there is more to come.

  43. Nice to visit NewAssignment.Net! Congrates for the idea. I am concerned about, whether the site will cover global topics or not. If yes, then i have a lot to contribute from the place called “Paradise on earth”. In fact Indian occupied Kashmir has lot to say to the global audience, about its journey from tourism to terrorism, its rich cultural history, from ballet to bullet and so on. There are many serious topics that are crying to be covered,They should not only cover this, but give it legs.

  44. I just heard about this on NPR’s “On the Media” and I love it. I’m a photojournalist working for WKSU in Kent, Ohio (an NPR member station) and I’d like to help on some level. I just graduated from college but I’ve been working in the industry for about 5 years.

    I think the Ohio gubernatorial race this year is a big story. Ken Blackwell, the Republican candidate, was secreatry of state under the previous governor Bob Taft. He is in the position now to oversee his own election. Blackwell has been cast as a corrupt politician by the Democrats, rumored to have rigged the 2004 presidential election here in Ohio for Bush, though nothing has been proven and the party denys it. This is just one aspect of this election that warrents a story or two, any thoughts?

  45. Kwon heui Hong said

    Jay, good to hear of you from my professor in Korea. Thanks for your nice comments for readers of Dong-A Daily a couple of years ago. You have mentioned about the future of the civic journalism in the internet era, I remember. It’s now very easy to say we live in and with the internet, but it’s not so easy to invent the model, for business as well as for journalism, for the media. And I love the model you suggested. Good luck!!

  46. [...] Collaborative media is just starting to develop some momentum. News Assignment is project spearheaded by Jay Rosen(a teaches Journalism at New York University). It enables amateur and professional reporters to collaborate on the development of assignments and stories using open source principals. [...]

  47. [...] The money from Reuters will underwrite the costs of hiring our first editor, who will start in early 2007. (I introduced the idea of New Assignment here. A summary, with blog and press reactions, is here.) [...]

  48. Ken McCoy said

    Great Idea. Those of use that freelance and publish are really in need of collaborative groups of knowledge and work leads. This is what has been needed for a long time…. THE TIME IS NOW…. thanks!!!!!

  49. Jay,

    This sounds like a really good idea. I also invite you to have a look at our weblog which we have established on similar themes.

    We have a team of professional editors on a voluntary basis helping wannabe writers and journalists to edit their work and publish it in a free, democratic forum with audiences worldwide.

    The project has been goping for a year now and we;ve had some great responses from established journalists, academics and students alike.

    The address is: http://wanabehuman.blogspot.com

    We’d be grateful for any comments & suggestions on the project.

    Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

    Kind regards,

    Shuvra

  50. Who will own the copyright over the published content, and under what terms will it be distributed? If you do not intend to permit redistribution and derivative works, please do not associate what you are doing with “open source”. This is misleading.

  51. Jay Rosen said

    It will be a Creative Commons license of some kind, Matthew. I do intend to permit redistribution and derivative works.

  52. [...] Professionele en amateur-journalisten gaan horizontaal Reuters gaat een ton dollar investeren in nieuwssite http://www.NewAssignment.net. De site ‘does stories the regular news media doesn’t do, can’t do, wouldn’t do, or already screwed up.’ Het fantastische idee van het brein achter deze site: journalisten moeten horizontaal gaan werken. [...]

  53. Lars said

    Hi Jay:

    Congrats on the early support (and great feedback) you’re getting for this project. It seems very much like the OhMyNews model which has been quite successful in Korea for at least 3 or 4 years now. I’m wondering.. what (if any?) difference do you see between the two offerings as OMN has already established an intl. version as well.

  54. Jesse said

    sounds good

  55. [...] New Assignment.Net is a non-profit site that tries to spark innovation in journalism by showing that open collaboration over the Internet among reporters, editors and large groups of users can produce high-quality work that serves the public interest, holds up under scrutiny, and builds trust. [...]

  56. Scott said

    Hello:

    This is an incredible idea, and I would love to contribute. By pooling together the collective effort of the blogosphere maybe we would have a chance to counter the power of the MSM.

    Please let me know if as new information become available, and I will continue to watch this site for developments!

    Scott

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