Joan, it's a pleasure to be answering questions about Scoop here on OpEdNews. We have watched this site grow over several years to occupy a similar place to that which Scoop started to stake out when we launched in 1999.
Scoop has two aspects to what it does. We publish raw news (disintermediated press releases and speeches) in our home market of New Zealand [NZ]. We do this in a spirit of empowering the public by giving them access to the full undigested stream of information which goes into creating the media that they see in their newspapers and on the radio and TV.
And, (and this will be the bit that your readers are most interested in) we also publish free and frank commentary and some press releases from around the world. In this area of publication, we concentrate on stories which are either being ignored in the mainstream or which are receiveing insufficient attention. Our US coverage for example has concentrated on subjects like: the lies that started the Iraq war, corporate malfeasance and criminality, impeachment, unanswered questions in the official 911 narrative, and the weaknesses in the US election system - particularly in relation to electronic voting machine vulnerablities.
You have garnered some pretty impressive awards since 1999. Can you take a moment and talk about that?
The success of the idea as a web media concept was not quite so quickly followed with financial success, unfortunately. But the lack of funds encouraged creativity and freedom on the editorial side and is largely responsible for making Scoop what it has become.
We won lots of awards in the early days - cleaning up in the inaugural NZ public internet awards in 2001, and then performing well in 2002, 2003 and 2004. After 2004, the NZ award organizers changed the methodology, making it a sheer numbers race and we haven't really tried that hard since. Awards are nice to win but it gets difficult competing as an independent with the huge online news teams put together by the newspapers and TV networks. Most recently, we did rather well in the first properly judged online journalism awards in 2007.
One of the satisfying things has always been how we have managed to innovate and stay ahead of the curve. We were the first website to publish top rating story lists, the first to start publishing images, and we definitely publish the biggest images online in NZ. We were also the first news producers to start podcasting and running video.
That's a lot of firsts, especially for a small operation. You've proven yourselves adept at turning obstacles into challenges and then rising to them. The alternative press in America could learn a lot from you. How did you become interested in examining the underbelly of American elections?
Through 2002, we had been following the drumbeats to war and publishing dissident views on the subject. Perhaps because of our coverage of that and issues like "Unanswered Questions" we were added to the press release distribution list being run by [BlackBoxVoting.org founder and director] Bev Harris.
In October 2002, we published a press release "Republicans Make the US Elections Voting Machines" from Bev Harris.
On the eve of the 2002 midterm elections, ES&S demanded removal of the article "Voting Machine Company Demands Removal Of Articles". We did not comply and instead published several more releases from Bev Harris.
On 12 November a week after the midterms, I personally decided to look a bit deeper into the record and published "American Coup: Mid-Term Election Polls vs Actuals" a report which found a pattern of inconsistencies around the critical senate and gubernatorial races which occurred in that election round.
That article, and several of the Bev Harris ones, were picked up by several big US websites - notably by Mark Karlin at Buzzflash.com and achieved very high levels of traffic. Little did we realize what was to come next.
Don't stop there, Alastair.
Well, the first thing that happened is that the story was hard to get traction around. Not only was it hard to get anyone to report anything about the subject, but criticism for us daring to attack the credibility of election results came thick and fast. But there was also considerable support. It was a fun time.
William Rivers Pitt was one of the first off the blocks to touch on the subject and Faun Otter had already written on it. Scoop started following the story closely and publishing anything we could find.
Then, in February 2003, we had a breakthrough - Bev Harris found an open FTP site with all the source code to the Diebold voting machines. These reports were closely followed by a report in the Guardian Newspaper and this fantastic report out of Baltimore. Salon's Farhad Manjoo joined the beat a few days later.
Scoop was rapidly becoming a clearing house for information on this new and fascinating area of inquiry. Bev Harris was telling me she was onto some really big material, (she rang to tell me) but then went a bit quiet. In March, elements of the Democratic Party finally woke up to what was going on.
But the big break was still ahead - it was to do with the breakthrough in February and the cache of Diebold source files.
Let's pause here, Alastair. Our readers are invited to join us shortly for the second part of this interview.