The Sedona Observer
A not-for-profit, interactive, ad-free national newspaper dedicated to genuine public service journalism, The Sedona Observer was initiated by award-winning professional journalist Catherine J. Rourke in July 2007, along with a volunteer committee of media professionals concerned about filling the void in local media.
What began as a community journalism experiment while participating in a digital media project at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism's New Media Academy for professional veteran journalists grew into a global online vehicle for connecting voices around the world.
Answering the call
The Observer represents an attempt to stir people off the couch via original narrative-style literary journalism and into solution-oriented civic engagement.
Designed as "the gift of a free press " for her local community of Sedona, Ariz., Rourke launched her first issue in October 2007 to report the untold and underreported stories, especially about neglected issues and the downtrodden members of the city.
It educates and enlightens readers, linking them with pro-active steps for sustainable change and social transformation.
Day and night: a labor of love
During the paper's embryonic stages, Rourke spent three months working 18 hours per day, seven days per week, to produce the first edition. She didn't even know if anyone would bother to read it all.
She conducted investigating reports, designed the paper's banner and overall style and pages, writing and editing articles in Associated Press Style, laying out the pages, learning new software, copy editing the entire publication and so forth.
Rourke even devoted countless hours to studying the American newspaper archive dating back to 1721 to determine how the content of papers through 1888 succeeded in capturing the attention of a nation and even, in some cases, spawning a revolutionary uprising against the world's greatest empire.
That's when she decided to design a front page versus a home page that would reflect the look, feel and tone of early journalism's founding fathers: sans ads and loaded with plenty of fiery discourse.
It was then that the Observer's namesake, design, appearance, style, tone and philosophy was created: to resurrect 18th century journalism principles via narrative-style literary journalism in a visual format that reflected newspapers of the American Revolution merging with 21st century technology.
It represented the best of both worlds: a revival of the journalism's sacred and glorious origins while utilizing all the power of Internet technology for widespread distribution.
Revitalizing stale journalism
The paper integrates 21st-century, open-source technology to offer the best of old and new media, with a rich alternative to drab digital billboards.
The Observer invigorates stale journalism by catalyzing solutions, replacing school lunch menus and police blotters with entire pages dedicated to socioeconomic issues, highlighting Rourke's commitment to journalism that serves the common good.
Its 18th-century literary tone gives readers a hearty alternative to dry news: a thick juicy steak they can sink their teeth into instead of the mundane carrot stick or stale cracker. Because Rourke believed that readers deserved something far superior to the decaffeinated, homogenized flavor that most newspapers offered.
Restoring sacred trust in media
The Observer fulfills public demand for high quality, in-depth reporting, with live video streams, blogs and multimedia to dissect the truth behind the facts, linking communities in a democratic interchange of ideas.
It features entire pages on health care, the environment, truth in media, sustainable living, labor and workplace, the economy and much more in an era when there are, for example, only three labor beat reporters in all of America producing an occasional, in-depth article on today's critical workplace issues.
The Observer also displays the time-honored Journalism Code of Ethics on the site's WHAT page, including her proposals for new amendments to update the code.
The paper’s honest, heartfelt approach and Code of Ethics aim to restore Americans’ sacred trust in the news, imparting a sense of ownership via interactive media’s public participatory process. Furthermore, its big-picture, solution-oriented perspectives also serve to educate, enlighten and empower a nationwide audience.
A viral effect
Virtually overnight the publication received widespread enthusiasm as local readers sent the link to contacts all over the nation. Letters came pouring in from coast to coast, exclaiming delight that "finally there is media that can tell it like it is."
While the paper's link was initially sent to approximately 800 contacts across the local community, the paper had an instantaneous viral effect that spread across Arizona and the entire U.S. It now has 40,000 free subscribers across America and the globe who continue to clamor for more of "everything a newspaper should be."
"Disseminating universal truth to a universal audience via universal technology to change America by changing its media first" became the paper's slogan.
Breaking new ground
In 2008 the Observer received six national and state press awards for online news writing, editing and site development. That was an affirmation for "the little engine that could" to keep going.
While it began as a monthly publication to restore the public's sacred trust in its media, the Observer has evolved into a weekly, with regular and sometimes daily postings due to public demand for increasing coverage of many unreported issues.
While the paper relies on donations and isn't about making profit, it is making a difference. Since the first edition, it has expanded from a monthly to a weekly news site with many exciting new sections and videos.
Innovative pages focus Work-Life Balance issues, Seniors, World Peace, Medicine, Visionaries, Human Rights, Education, Profiles in Courage and much more.
The Observer remains dedicated to upholding Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech for the betterment of mankind.
Its groundbreaking content has revived a near-extinct breed of literary journalism to uphold democracy, unite rural communities, advocate positive social change, cultivate reflection in an attention-deficit culture and foster media collaboration and community building. Working with educators to instill strong ethics in tomorrow’s journalists represents another facet of the paper's mission.
By serving as a new business model for media, it aims to “be the change we wish to see in the world,” even if it's simply in our little corner of the neighborhood, drilling deep into the core of today's issues to expose a bedrock of truth.
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A FREE PRESS!
CATHERINE J. ROURKE
The Health Sentinel
Medical and health journalist
"Truth in Medicine" Columnist
Social advocacc journalist
I want to write about revelations,
not spin silly tales for money....
Robert Berman/World Voice Publishing
Award-winning journalist Catherine Rourke picked up a quill pen in a museum gift shop at age 6 and has been writing ever since.
Her passion became ignited at age 15 as the Op-Ed editor of her New York high school newspaper, from which she was almost dismissed for her radical, socially progressive editorials. A year later she received a Quill and Scroll Award for excellence in high school journalism for her article “Is the American Dream Really Crumbling?” – marking the start of a muckraking and social change journalism career that would span to the present day.
After completing her studies in English, Latin and Greek at the City University of New York and Oxford University, England, Catherine pursued photojournalism at the School of Visual Arts and the Center for Media Arts in New York for two years, earning a certificate in Media Studies and Professional Photography.
She began her journalism career at The Miami Herald and from there worked as a news reporter and photographer for many daily and weekly newspapers around the country, from Southampton, New York, and Boston to St. George, Utah.
Rourke never lost sight of her dream to restore the media as a muckraking vehicle for social justice in the public interest.
From articles about protecting seniors from utility shut-offs to series on affordable housing and workers rights, her writings upheld journalism’s original precept that “…the press is always for the truth of humanity and indignant at injustice…” Above all, she believed it should serve as a watchdog and voice for the common man versus the powerful elite.
Her proclivity for both the written and spoken word also led her to serve as a public relations director for medical facilities, corporations and nonprofit organizations. She received a Public Relations Society of America Primus Award for her newsletters and strategic media campaigns.
During the years she spent in public relations, Catherine continued to pen social reform articles for alternative newspapers on a freelance basis. She also contributed her writing skills pro bono for workplace reform, labor and social justice media campaigns.
Sedona community journalism
Catherine returned to full-time journalism once again as chief copy editor and columnist for the Sedona Red Rock News for nearly four years, winning more than a dozen top writing awards from both state and national press associations for her stories on 9/11 and other pressing issues.
Disenchanted with the state of the local mainstream media, she eventually quit her job due to what she considered violations of the First Amendment and federal labor laws.
Catherine struck out on her own as a freelance social advocacy and health-medical journalist for national alternative newspapers, labor unions and Internet publications.
She then launched an investigative column for another paper in which she addressed legislation, immigration, affordable housing, health care and workplace issues. It also celebrated the contributions of Sedona's "invisible" people - immigrants, food servers, janitors and trash collectors - to the community and society in general.
The column received a distinguished Community Journalist of the Year Award from the Arizona Press Club in 2006. It now continues in these pages as the expanded Invisible Sedona column series.
Just saying NO to censorship
After working for a year as editor-in-chief of a national health magazine, Catherine returned to freelance social change writing. Still, her attempts to publish investigative reports on health care, labor and workplace issues fell on deaf ears.
On July 5, 2007, she was inspired to gather health-care horror stories from her local community before she saw the film SiCKO. Disheartened over the lack of local media willing to publish her investigative reports on these and environmental concerns, as well her stories about workplace and labor issues, due to advertiser-driven censorship, Rourke decided she would have to create her own.
After receiving an outpouring of testimonials, she knew no media would do them justice – with dignity as well as the editorial freedom to examine allegations from doctors and nurses about a medical facility that they claimed was thriving on patient neglect and human suffering.
Thus in 2007 The Sedona Observer was born as a not-for-profit online free press dedicated to restoring muckraking and truth in media.
A labor of love
Shunning advertising to ensure the integrity of its editorial content and freedom of the press, it covers issues largely neglected by a local media that lacks professional investigative reporting or in-depth analysis. Rourke earns no salary whatsoever and produces it as a “labor of love.”
Rourke believes that media should serve as the glue that binds communities together. Her mission was to unite a fragmented society by offering an interactive Freedom-of-Speech-vehicle for all voices. She aims to empower the working poor, downtrodden and “invisible” people by telling their stories, advocating for their rights and celebrating their contributions to society.
By presenting the “big picture” perspective on many of her community’s pressing issues, the paper has spread across America to reach a national audience. It was linked on www.barackobama.com in 2008.
The result? Thousands of readers keep clamoring for more of her investigative stories while she labors into the wee hours to produce them.
Restore sacred trust in media
By restoring journalism to a nonprofit practice instead of a profit-obsessed business, the Observer's mission is to “change America by changing its media first” with “truth and integrity in journalism.” It blends digital technology with 18th-century journalism principles, offering in-depth news analysis and commentary on pressing issues in narrative-style literary journalism with a muckraking attitude.
As such, it is the only known professional newspaper in Arizona featuring entire pages devoted to socioeconomic, labor, health care reform, truth in media, workplace, environment, medicine and other issues.
She is besieged with requests from people turning to her paper with requests for stories because they claim “it is the only one here willing and able to report the truth.”
Rourke says: “By revitalizing the fine art of in-depth, narrative analysis with a dash of muckraking to today’s homogenized, decaffeinated journalism, I hope to inspire solution-oriented discourse and compassionate action – in local communities as well as across the country.”
Reviving journalism, the soul of democracy
Rourke currently gives speaking presentations about the future of media in between writing articles, producing her online newspaper and earning her living as a freelance book editor and Web content copywriter.
While Rourke mourns the decline in newsprint, she believes that Internet technology offers a solution for combating censorship and resurrecting investigative reporting, which cannot rely on postage-stamp sized news briefs to provide a 360-degree picture of the truth behind the facts.
Her platform is that multimedia tools can expand and enhance reports while online media can liberate journalism from the limitations of column inch space and emancipate it from the shackles of advertiser control.
With new business models that support not-for-profit media like the Observer, America can enjoy a Renaissance of journalism as the profession reinvents itself, casting its 20th-century cloak and resurrecting its 18th century founding principles as a watchdog practice for the common good.
Rourke is now moving forward to heal that journalistic chasm by bringing local media together in the spirit of collaboration and the profession’s moral responsibility to serve the public interest.
Video Producer and Filmmaker
An award-winning filmmaker and video producer, Steve DeVol is a graduate of the renowned Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Filmmaking in Sedona, where he has resided for many years as a visual artist.
While specializing in commercial video production and documentary video, Steve is also an accomplished photographer, with 45 years of experience in all modalities including black-and-white, color and the photo lab industry.
His work has now evolved into the innovative digital realm, with the Internet providing an exciting new platform for his expertise in digital technology imaging, both in stills and in video.
Steve contributed his exceptional skills to create the “SiCKO in Sedona” testimonial video on behalf of health-care reform.
For a complete bio, go to www.stephendevol.com/bio.html.
Writer - Author/Musician
RICHARD ABERDEEN/Freedom Tracks
A Nashville writer and musician, Richard Aberdeen started The Aberdeen Foundation, a nonprofit human rights organization that helps the sick and poor, and Freedom Tracks Records, an independent label dedicated to producing music of social and political conscience.
His articles are designed to make everyone think. He believes that trying to understand what is "best" for a given situation, rather than what is liberal or conservative, is the proper approach to try and find a solution.
The former Prescott, Ariz., resident is also the author of three books, with a work-in-progress titled Fixing America in 500 Words or Less.
David Bacon is a Berkeley-based freelance journalist and photographer whose social justice work regularly appears in many publications such as The American Prospect, ZMagazine, The Nation, In These Times, The Progressive and others. He serves on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Committee of the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition and focuses on labor and immigration issues.
David is also an editor for New American Media, whose mission is "to promote the editorial visibility and economic viability of this critical sector of American journalism as a way to build inclusive public discourse in our increasingly diverse, global society."
As a prolific author, he has published several noteworthy books on the socioeconomic and labor issues of our time. These include Communities Without Borders - Images and Voices from the World of Migration and The Children of NAFTA - Labor Wars on the US/Mexico Border. Visit his Web site for more information about his photography exhibits and other events.
Nancy is a freelance photographer who lives in Sedona and focuses her lens on the natural world.
She says: “My most inspiring work is getting as close as possible to nature, shifting away from the mundane world to capture the beauty of life in the images that surrounds us.
Maybe others will pay attention and see things differently because of my pictures. I am in love and gratitude for what appears for me in divine ways."
CHARLES GRANTHAM - THE FUTURE OF WORK
A visionary leader in interpreting the workplace trends of tomorrow, Charles Grantham is co-founder of the Work Design Collaborative in Prescott, Ariz., where he develops emerging forms of work and commerce and manages an extensive applied research program focused on the emergence of the electronic workplace.
Author of The Future of Work – The Promise of the New Digital Work Society (McGraw Hill, 2000), Grantham is recognized as an international expert on the design of information and organizational systems that support these new forms of work. With more than 25 years of experience in this field, he has appeared on national news broadcasts to discuss the social ramifications of new workplace trends.
Currently serving as chair of the Prescott mayor's advisory committee on economic development, he focuses on the design of community-based business centers as a link between “talent” in non-metropolitan areas and the global Internet economy, showcasing Prescott's efforts to become a magnet for talent.
Political Essayist/Illustrator - Painter, Sculptor, Writer
Jim Kirwan is a San Francisco writer, painter, sculptor, graphic artist, illustrator and political activist whose work has appeared on the Web for the last six years, including his own site.
He is a columnist on rense.com and has contributed his work to Information Clearing House as well as Heyoka Magazine.com.
Jim says: “I have a love-hate relationship with political life. Every time I think I can just move on into more creative endeavors, I seem to be dragged back into the thick of politics. When these issues from the world of black and white cross over into the full-color world of everyday living, then many of us have to participate.
“Over the years I've worked on a wide variety of political interests, while remaining an independent and occasionally caustic commentator. I'm an outsider who has remained an outsider throughout the many years that I've spent following various professions. As a rule I like to question everything.”
Political Essayist - Author/Lecturer
PAUL ROGAT LOEB
Paul Rogat Loeb is a Seattle author, lecturer and political essayist who has spent 35 years researching and writing about citizen responsibility and empowerment – asking what makes some people choose lives of social commitment while others abstain.
His books include Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time, Hope in Hard Times, Nuclear Culture and Generation at the Crossroads: Apathy and Action on the American Campus.
His recent anthology on political hope, The Impossible Will Take a Little While, was named the No. 3 Political Book of 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association. It also won the Nautilus Award for Best Social Change Book of the Year.
An Affiliate Scholar at Seattle's Center for Ethical Leadership, he has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Psychology Today, Mother Jones, The Nation, Redbook, the International Herald Tribune and the Christian Science Monitor and been interviewed on CNN, NPR, C-SPAN, NBC News, CBS, the BBC and NPR. He has lectured at 400 colleges throughout the country and numerous national and international conferences.
Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller said: “Paul Loeb brings hope for a better world in a time when we so urgently need it.” And Bill Moyers writes, of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: “This book can even make one hopeful about the future despite so many signs to the contrary."
For information on Loeb’s books and articles, visit http://www.paulloeb.org.
DICK MEISTER - LABOR VIEWS
Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist who has covered labor issues for a half-century as a print, broadcast, and online reporter, editor and commentator. His articles, columns and commentaries on labor, politics, international affairs, the media, sports, historical events, foreign and domestic travel and other matters have appeared in more than 250 newspaper, magazine, online and broadcast outlets.
Dick has worked as a reporter for United Press, The Associated Press and PBS TV Station KQED in San Francisco, where he was the first – and, so far, only − television reporter to cover labor on a daily basis. He's also served as a reporter/photographer for the San Jose Mercury News, labor editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, city editor of the Oakland Tribune, and a frequent commentator on Pacifica Radio in Berkeley, Los Angeles and Houston, KQED-FM and other public radio stations.
He is also the co-author with Anne Loftis of A Long Time Coming: The Struggle to Unionize America's Farm Workers (Macmillan, 1977) which documents the labor history of farm workers.
Dick received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Stanford University and has taught the subject at San Francisco State University. He's been an active member of the American Newspaper Guild, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians and American Federation of Teachers.
Visit his Web site and e-mail him at www.dickmeister.com.
Writer/Sustainable Living Consultant
John Neville, president of Sustainable Arizona, has been involved in sustainable development since the phrase was coined in the late 1980s. The Sedona resident has helped organizations with sustainability systems, business communications and management practices, leadership development and diversity enhancement. His clients have ranged from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.
Currently, John is providing sustainable systems consulting and communications services and is a frequent guest speaker. He serves on the leadership team of the Sedona Water Wise Alliance; is a member of the boards of the Sedona Community Foundation and Cornucopia Community Advocates; and is an advisor to the Verde Valley Cultural Diversity Council. He also serves on the board of the Coconino Sustainable Economic Development Initiative and as an advisor to the Sedona Economic Development Task Force.
John facilitated a leadership process for local students and was awarded the Role Model for Youth Award in Minnesota for developing an environmental education program for children. The home he designed in Sedona has received two awards for excellence in sustainable building. His dream companion, Jawn McKinley, can be seen charging around Sedona doing wonderful things for the community. They both were recently recognized by business groups and the city of Sedona for their efforts in fostering sustainability and water conservation.
LORI RUBENSTEIN - Dare to Transcend!
Author and Personal Life Coach Lori Rubenstein shares excerpts from her inspiring new book Transcending Divorce: A Guide for Personal Growth and Transformation on our Lifestyles page. Based in the Sedona area, Lori uses her background as a successful mediator and divorce attorney to help people deal with the fearful transitions in their lives.
She teaches workshops in Conscious Relationships (also another one of her book titles) and classes in Divorce and Custody as well as Life Makeover.
Visit www.transcendingdivorce.com for more information about her books and many programs.
JAMES WARE - THE FUTURE OF WORK
James Ware is a co-founder of the Work Design Collaborative and the Future of Work program. He has more than 30 years experience in research, executive education, consulting and management, including five years on the faculty of the Harvard Business School.
A recognized expert in fostering collaborative inquiry that produces both learning and action, he has led more than a dozen sponsored research projects on topics such as electronic commerce channel strategies, Web-enabling business processes, IT executive leadership and staff development, and building business performance scorecards.
He was the lead author of The Search for Digital Excellence, (McGraw-Hill, 1998), an early compendium of e-business case studies demonstrating the impact of the Internet on business and society.
Jim holds Ph.D., M.A. and B.Sc. degrees from Cornell University and an MBA (With Distinction) from the Harvard Business School. He served on the board of trustees of Heald College from 1998 to 2007, with the last two years as chairman.
Writer - Artist/Poet
Carl Weis is an artist, poet, writer and former associate professor of creative arts (Siena College, Loudonville, New York) who now resides in the Village of Oak Creek near Sedona. He is also a founding member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice (www.stj911.org) and a grass-roots organizer at 911 Truth (www.911truth.org). He writes about political subjects.
HUCK/KONOPACKI LABOR CARTOONS
There's a saying that much truth is said in jest, and perhaps no two do it better than Gary Huck and Mike Konopacki. These brilliant cartoonists have graciously donated their hilarious and painfully truthful artwork to The Sedona Observer for the sake of social reform in health care and the workplace. In that, we are eternally grateful, for one cartoon speaks a thousand words.
Gary Huck, labor cartoonist for the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America, is a native of Racine, Wisc. In the 1970's Gary drew labor cartoons for the longest running labor weekly in the U.S., The Racine Labor. In 1985 Gary was hired by the UE to succeed the great Fred Wright as UE cartoonist.
Mike Konopacki lives in Madison, Wisc. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1974. He began labor cartooning for the Madison Press Connection, a local daily created by striking newspaper workers in 1977. After the paper folded in 1980, Mike began syndicating his labor cartoons through the labor news service, Press Associates, Inc.
In 1983 he and Gary Huck created their own syndication service, Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons. Since that time Gary and Mike have published four collections of labor cartoons: Bye! American, THEM, MAD in USA and Working Class Hero. With writer Alec Dubro, Mike has written and drawn comic books and cartoons about the World Bank, welfare reform, union organizing and the WTO. Mike's video animation appears in the Jeremy Brecher/Tim Costello video "Global Village or Global Pillage."
Mark Hurwitt grew up in an environment that emphasized art, music, literature and politics. He's been drawing for as long as he can remember.
He graduated from the Woodstock Country School in Vermont and received his B.A. from Franconia College in New Hampshire. Mark continued his studies at the School of Visual Arts in New York, the University College of Dublin in Ireland and the New Experimental College of Nordenfjord World University in Denmark. He worked as a metal crafter, jeweler and leather crafter.
As staff artist and editorial cartoonist at the Vineyard Gazette, his work won major awards from the New England Press Association in competition with newspapers across the six state region. While living on Martha's Vineyard, Mark also published a very successful and popular 52-page comic book: Martha's Vineyard Comics & Stories.
After moving to New York City in 1990, Mark did computer animation, creating storyboards and digital displays for signage companies and advertising agencies. He also became an artist-in-residence in the New York City school system, teaching drawing and writing skills to grades K through 12. For five years Mark served on the National Board of Directors of the Graphic Artists Guild and was chairman of the Cartoonists Alliance of New York.
Mark currently works as a freelance illustrator for clients in publishing and advertising, as well as educational, cultural, community, political and labor organizations. He contributes editorial cartoons to several publications and has work in gallery exhibitions and private collections. Mark takes pride in his ability to find creative solutions, work collaboratively and meet tight deadlines.
Mark is also a lecturer and gives a presentation on Woody Guthrie as a political cartoonist in conjunction with the Woody Guthrie Archives. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.woodyguthrie.org.
The Sedona Observer greatly appreciates Mark's cartoons that grace the Op-Ed and Election Year 2008 pages.