by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
April 10, 2004
April 10, 1995 - April 10, 2004
"Making A Place for Independent Journalism"
The American Reporter today celebrates the ninth anniversary of its founding and begins its tenth year of progress. There were many who said when we started in 1995 that we would not last more than a few weeks, a few months, a few years; we have outlasted all of those.
In the course of publishing the work of talented journalists from around the globe, we have had many significant moments for which we can take pride: the first interview with the director of the day care center where 18 children died in the Murrah Federal Building blast in 1995, just nine days after we began publication; the prescient reporting of President Suharto's plan to have Indonesia's current President, Megawati Sukarnoputri, removed from her post as leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party in 1996; our victory in the United States Supreme Court over Internet censorship in 1997; our global scoop on the impending IRA Good Friday ceasefire in 1998; the selection of our Indonesian correspondent for a Neiman International ellowship at Harvard in 1999; our First Place for the Best Internet News Story at the Los Angeles Press Club journalism awards in 2000; our scoop, 10 days ahead of the event, on the impending change of government in Nepal in 2001; our groundbreaking reporting in the Winnie the Pooh case in 2002; our reporting from Baghdad in 2003; our prediction of Sen. John Kerry's astounding comeback in early Janary, 2004; all of these stories, and the many other achievements of our American Reporter Correspondents, sustain the faith that each of us has invested in the future of this unfunded, unsung and still little-known publication that nonetheless has occasionally had a very profound and positive influence on the course of nations.
From its first days, The American Reporter was determined to remain an independent, journalist-owned publication that traded the comfort and security of ordinary journalism for the extraordinary chance to publish our work in a publication that would not cower under pressure, compromise with the truth, or concede our craft to the sensationalism and senseless repetition that has shaped much of the Western media; when we were asked what we would do if the world's richest man offered us a fortune for our publication eight years ago, we answered then as we would now: "We'd have to think it over."
As the years went by and we continued to think, the suitor would probably get the message. We are not for sale and never were. When Editor & Publisher magazine wrote the misleading headline, "American Reporter absorbed by Nando.net," we knew that we had merely concluded an arms-length agreement to supply them with our news on a preferential basis; Nando.net died in May 2003 as we soldiered on.
Our destiny, although it may brighten in the nearer future, lies far ahead, when we finally and irrecovably have reached our goal of providing the same quality journalism every day on the Internet that a publication such as the New York Times provides in print. Given that we have no financial resources that would seem impossible on its face; but the New York Times had little when it started but the strength, determination and character of its founders, and we as much as they depend on the very same assets.
It is of some importance to us that we achieve the same level of accuracy and attain the same level of respect for our work that print and wire service organizations have earned for theirs; when we started, in the first few days we warned that this would be a very, very long war and that to win it, we would need to be right many, many times, even when others said we were wrong.
So it is with some relief that by the grace of God this publication has not been damaged as so many of our print competitors have been by both deliberately and mistakenly false reporting; you did not read here that Bob Hope was dead, many years ago, or that we had a startling confession from Timothy McVeigh, or that Secret Service agents were peeping on President Clinton's private affairs, or that U.S. troops had massacred American POWs in Laos with poison gas, or that CIA officers had started the crack business in Los Angeles, all of these errors were reported on Websites we know, ranging from the Wall Street Journal to ABC News to the Dallas Morning News to the San Jose Mercury-News to CNN. Yet we do not have the large audience of these publications that has allowed them the opportunity to continually reinvent themselves as paragons of accurate journalism.
We are certainly not perfect, however; at what other publication has the Editor-in-Chief suspended himself for an ethical lapse? But we have tried hard, in this long upwards struggle toward respectability, to maintain our equilibrium and a serious if sometimes irreverent tone. At times we have surely bored our readers, and at times more likely have scared them to death; but we have not published falsehoods and praised ourselves for correcting them, or published paranoia and praised ourselves for being wrong.
By the long, slow measure of the years that grind away our lives, we have been there for the honest, seeking journalist, for the abandoned stories and the censored ones, for the brave men and women who would speak truth to power, and for the powerless who would have us hear their voice. These are not small achievements, even if few have noticed.
Our journey goes on, and our destiny as a great powerhouse of Internet journalism awaits us. It is distant, but in time, it will be realized. For now, on behalf of all American Reporter Correspondents, and especially myself, this newspaper extends its profound thanks to all of you readers who have been with us on this journey, whether for a long or a little while; and we offer to each other - this merry crew of rebels and renewers - our heartiest congratulations that we have cheated mediocrity and survived yet another year. God bless you one and all.