Friday, July 01, 2005

Citizen Journalist: Chris Allbritton in Iraq

People interested in "citizen journalism" and user-created content should check out the blog:
where Chris Allbritton has been traipsing around Iraq supported by readers:
In March 2003, I made it back in time for the war, becoming the Web's first fully reader-funded journalist-blogger. With the support of thousands of readers, we raised almost $15,000. You can read my dispatches here. It was one of the moments in journalism when everything worked. It was a grand -- and successful -- experiment in independent journalism.
Here's a sample of his writing:

“Bumps in the road”? Just earlier today, presumably before the Iraqi journalist was killed, an Iraqi member of parliament was killed in a car bomb attack. I can't even begin to tell you how many Iraqis have been killed in the weeks I was away. And how many more Iraqis, journalists or otherwise, will die because the Americans can't tell who's friend or foe? Those aren't “bumps in the road.” Those are signs that you went off the road without a map a long time ago...

News flash: Iraq is a disaster. I've been back one day, and the airport road was the worst I've ever seen it. We had to go around a fire-fight between mujahideen and Americans while Iraqi forces sat in the shade of date palms on the side of the road, their rifles resting across their laps. My driver pointed to a group of men in a white pickup next to me. “They are mujahideen,” he said. “They are watching the Americans.” Indeed, they were, and so intently that they paid no attention to me in the car next to them. We detoured around two possible car bombs that had been cordoned off while Iraqis cautiously approached.

Rumsfeld's assessment of “good progress” on the constitution is not accurate... [Morale] wasn't rock-bottom among the Marines of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, but it wasn't great. Most of the ones I talked to weren't confident they were doing anything worthwhile, and were instead focused on getting home alive. If a few Iraqis had to die to make that happen, well, war is hell.

I'm not sure who's winning this war, the Americans or the insurgents. But I know who is losing it: the Iraqi people. Those bumps in the road are their graves.

Highly recommended.

I had believed that regardless of the blog-driven forthcoming split between editorial and reporting at the major news organizations, it would be these organizations that would continue to have the near-monopoly ability to fund and maintain an extensive news-gathering presence around the world. Chris' work suggests that this belief may already be out of date.

Bonus food for thought: We all can see that our current news-gathering system is getting manipulable and corrupted beyond belief, and increasingly its authority and credibility are shot. Wouldn't it be interesting if a new form of reporting, based on a new form of trust and credibility -- socially established, not oligopoly-brand-based -- emerged, phoenix-like, from the ashes of the old?

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