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Press Releases | Working Stiff
For immediate release
Contact: Suzanne Seggerman (suzanne@weblab.org)
Kevin Dando (kdando@pbs.org)

First Web Development Fund Project on PBS ONLINE
New York, NY, June 10,1998 - Factory closings, sexual harassment, downsizing, cameras in the breakroom. We generally hear from corporate chiefs and "experts" about what's happening in the workplace. But do working people have anything to say? A new Web site, launching June 15 under the auspices of Web Lab's Web Development Fund in association with PBS ONLINE, answers that question with a resounding and spirited "yes."
Working Stiff is a webzine for working people, designed to provide a place for employees from around the country and in a variety of jobs to gather and learn from a lively exchange of information and advice. The site includes a combination of hand-written workplace diaries; in-depth feature articles on issues from privacy to office relationships; a weekly advice column; a stress-o-meter; a resource guide; and active bulletin boards. Working Stiff will be a place where the average Jane or Joe can reflect on and talk with others about the daily grind.
"This is not a 'Dilbert' Web site," said Jennifer Vogel, team leader of the project. "Dilbert encourages people to be passive. Working Stiff is the opposite. We aim to give people what they need to improve their working lives."
"The workplace has really changed over the last 10 years," said Robin Marks, the site's co-producer. "A lot of people are not being treated humanely -- they're being monitored, required to work unpaid overtime, and feeling like there's nothing they can do about it. Working Stiff is more than an outlet for their gripes. It's a place where they can see that lots of people are having the same difficulties, and they can get information and support for making changes in their workplace."
The site's main attraction is the diaries section, which will trace the daily drama and, yes, monotony of working life in two different occupations per month. Literally hand written on stenopads by workers (whose identities are protected), the diaries incorporate sound files and other objects from the diarists' workspaces. "I just got my raise," writes a customer service rep with a clothing company. The entry is accompanied on the site by three shiny pennies supplied by the diary writer. The site launches with the journal of a casino worker who wrestles with seedy bosses, zombie gamblers, and constant moral dilemmas ("It's Cash Give-A-Way Day, at least that's what the casino calls it.") and a utility company employee who describes his odd world in which assistants suffer from persistent neural blackouts and bosses log out, never to return.
"How appropriate that this is one of the first WDF projects to go public," said Marc N. Weiss, Web Lab executive producer, and creator of P.O.V., the award-winning public TV series. "It's not only a lively, energetic, welcoming place, it couldn't exist anywhere but on the Web." John Hollar, executive vice president of PBS Learning Ventures, said, "''Working Stiff' delivers on the Web Development Fund's promise to be creative, unique, and personal. It's real people talking about real issues in the rough and tumble world of work. If PBS ONLINE and Web Lab don't do it, who will?"
Working Stiff is one of eight sites funded through the first round of Web Lab's Web Development Fund (WDF). The next WDF launch will be the Living with Suicide site, slated to debut June 22. The WDF provides financial support and visibility for innovative new projects that demonstrate the potential of the Web to catalyze new perspectives, new thinking, and new relationships between people. The first group of WDF sites launching in 1998 will reside on PBS ONLINE, under a one-year exclusive showcase arrangement with PBS.
Web Lab, a project of the New York Foundation for the Arts, is supported by PBS ONLINE, the Ford Foundation, and private funders.
Team bios
Jennifer Vogel (co-producer) comes from a working class background and began her working life busing tables at a truck stop in South Dakota. For the last seven years she's been a writer and editor, covering subjects ranging from prisons and civil liberties to housing and employment, and has won many awards for investigative journalism, including an I.F. Stone award from the Nation magazine while still in college. She's also the editor/author of a book called Crapped Out, which examines the social and economic effects of legalized gambling in America, published in 1997 by Common Courage Press. Currently, Vogel is Managing Editor of New Media for Stern Publishing, which owns the Village Voice, the LA Weekly, the Seattle Weekly, and a handful of other papers. She works out of the Seattle office, where she develops special projects, manages the Seattle Weekly Web site, and writes for the paper.
Robin Marks (co-producer) owns Bite Back Productions, an independent radio and multimedia journalism company. She has been a journalist for ten years, focusing on social, legal and scientific issues. Robin is a frequent contributor to local and national public radio programs, and has funded her freelance journalism and travel habits over the years with a variety of McJobs -- as a hospital cafeteria worker, telephone operator, retail clerk, and other, less rewarding occupations. Recently, she's discovered the lucrative world of multimedia, and works with the Seattle-based Mountain Zone to experiment with new ways of bringing journalism to the Internet. She also teaches radio production classes for Jack Straw Productions, a non-profit recording studio in Seattle. She has a Bachelor's degree in biology and a Master's in International Studies, speaks several foreign languages, and has worked in Russia, Ukraine and Australia.
Adam Chapman (art director/designer) is owner of the Web and print design group, ADM's Design Machine. After graduating from the Johnston Center at the University of Redlands in southern California with an Honors degree in Aesthetics Theory and Application, he moved to Seattle and started his own design practice. He has art directed or designed web sites and print pieces for MSN, K2 Sports, The Zone Network (where he was Lead Designer of the New Media Group), Mountain Zone.com, The Resonance Project Magazine, and a number of art galleries and media organizations. He is a mentor for the NEA/Benton Foundation Open Studio Project, a project bringing artists to the Internet.
Web Lab credits: Marc N. Weiss, Executive Producer; Barry Joseph, Supervising Producer; Suzanne Seggerman, Project Manager; Chad Ossman, Project Assistant

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