Sunday, May 22, 2011

Where Will You Be When It Comes? No, Not the Rapture, but the 1st Anniversary of the Founding of ThisCantBeHappening!

Late last May, four veteran journalists -- John Grant, Dave Lindorff, Linn Washington and Chuck Young -- got together at the White Dog Cafe, a venerable local dining establishment in Philly with a progressive history, and plotted the creation of a new online alternative newspaper.

Dave, who had been running a blogsite called ThisCantBeHappening! ever since he published a book with that title, offered to turn it over to the collective, along with its existing reader base.

The idea was to create a free-form collectively run, collectively edited publication that would eschew the hierarchies of owners and editors and reporters, so that the news reports and commentaries would get from the events they were covering to the reader, with as little filtering as possible. We in this collective attempt to run things through some minimal editing process by sharing our work with each other before publication, where possible, but often end up just posting our work directly on the site.

The results can sometimes be a little rough, admittedly, but on balance we think our work compares favorably not just with the crap that passes itself off as news in the corporate media, but also with the stuff that is being run by a lot of the established and more traditionally edited “alternative” media.

We simply don’t have filters or censorship. If one of us wants to do a story, it runs. Period. That's certainly not how it works in the corporate mainstream media, but it's not something that even publications like the Nation, In These Times, Mother Jones, the Progressive or Democracy Now! can say either.

We also have a number of outside writers who have generously offered to contribute occasional pieces to our site. These include people like Los Angeles playwright and poet Ben Pleasants, expatriate journalist Ron Ridenour, medical doctor-in-training Jess Guh, Pakistani journalists Shaukat Qadir and Yasmeen Ali, confirmed off-the-grid anarchist and Slab City denizen Tom Thompson, local businesswoman and covert radical “Betsy Ross,” long-time veteran investigative journalist James Ridgeway, Scottish journalist Ken Ferguson, expat lefty writer Victor Grossman, Louisiana and NYC novelist Fatima Shaik, prairie radical Michael Caddell, and others.

We have broken some important stories, from running a video clip showing Israeli storm-troopers kicking and then shooting and killing a prone young American aid volunteer on the Turkish Gaza aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, to exposing the lies about an American CIA operative arrested in Pakistan after his brutal murder of two young men on motorcycles in Lahore, to Chuck’s report on a leftist woman boldly running for election to the Texas School Board, to Linn’s searing report on the new First White House exhibition site and the relocation of the Liberty Bell on Philly’s Independence Mall, which turns be on the very spot which was originally President Washington’s slave quarters. We’ve also offered the unique insights into America’s war-mongering and imperialism provided by John Grant, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War and the anti-Vietnam War peace movement.

We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in our first year, with almost no financial backing at all, and if you are one of the 20-30,000 readers who come to our site each month, you know why. If you’re new to the site, we urge you to scan through not just the recent articles on the home page, but the whole archive of pieces written by John, Dave, Linn and Chuck, as well as all those whose work can be found by clicking on the link to the “other writers” archive.

Now for the pitch. If you value what we are doing, we are asking all you readers to do what a only a few hundred of our readers have done so far this year: make a contribution in any amount, using the handy Paypal button at the bottom of the home page, or on the “Support Us” page. (Those who prefer to send a check can find the information for mailing it on the same “Support Us” page.)

None of us is paid for this work at ThisCantBeHappening!, which means we all have to do other things to support ourselves and our families. That means we barely have time to do the writing, and especially the reporting, that appears on this site. The only way we can step up our game, is if you step up yours, and support what you are reading here.

While we love it when someone sends us a bigger donation, as some of you have generously done, our modest but revolutionary goal is to receive just $5 a year from every reader of ThisCantBeHappening! If you readers were to come through with that small contribution--about the cost of five crummy daily newspapers, or just 2.5 copies of the NY Times--we would have enough to allow us to quit our day jobs and devote almost full time to producing really important journalism on a daily basis on this site.

Let us remind you that what we’re doing is pretty unusual. Most of the sites you go to for progressive journalism are really aggregator sites. Online news sites like Common Dreams, Truthout, Smirking Chimp, and Counterpunch, all immensely valuable (and supportive of us!), do not for the most part generate or even pay for the news reports they publish. They merely collect news from other sources--often volunteered commentaries, or even reports in the corporate media, and disseminate them in the left community. We are doing something different here. We are actually creating news articles, which can then be further spread on those sites.

We aren’t seeking grant support. We are not a not-for-profit organization that is hamstrung by IRS rules about not taking sides or being political. We aren’t seeking commercial support. All we want, and all we need, is for our readers to back us.

As we approach our first anniversary of publication on June 4, will you join us in this experiment at radical journalism with no strings attached?

We sure hope so!

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