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Interview with Brian Conley – Alive in Baghdad

Road Junky interviewed Brian Conley about his groundbreaking work with Alive in Baghdad which takes the journalism aspect of blogging/vlogging to an entirely new level: Brian is bringing us news that the western media can not get through the corporate filter…

Road Junky interviewed Brian Conley about his groundbreaking work with Alive in Baghdad which takes the journalism aspect of blogging/vlogging to an entirely new level: Brian is bringing us news that the western media can not get through the corporate filter… So here it is:

RJ: What is Alive in Baghdad and how did it come about?

BC: Alive in Baghdad is a partnership between Iraqi and American journalists and filmmakers. It enables Iraqis to speak to the world and show their lives and stories on video. It is our hope to enable the voices and images of regular Iraqis, and not just those involved in the political program and military to be broadcast around the world.

RJ: What is Citizen Journalism all about?

BC: Citizen Journalism is about regular folks telling the stories of their lives, recognizing that we all have stories, and many of them are as important and compelling, if not more so, as those we see on the nightly news. Furthermore, we are increasingly losing all context for our news in favor of the he said she said, we got blown up, they bombed such and such. This is not news, it is an event ledger. Learning about the experiences and feelings of people, how they live their lives and what is important to them personally are just some of the ways Citizen Journalism can benefit the world.

RJ: What challenges have you faced in getting locals to tell their story?

BC: Foremost of course is the danger of daily travel around the city of Baghdad. Beyond this, given the special circumstances in Iraq it has been sometimes difficult to encourage our correspondents to tell the simple stories, given the constant flow of stories related to the violence and impact of the war. We hope to begin producing an array of regular life stories as well as those which depict war’s impact not seen elsewhere.

RJ: In what ways do you see that the traditional media lacks?

BC: The main lack in the traditional media, particularly the video/television media are the stories and interviews with people at the street level, and throughout Baghdad and Iraq who are not politicians or mmilitary officials. Right now the traditional media does not seem to have managed to get coverage in many parts of Iraq, even the capital city, except under heavy escort or embedded with military forces.

RJ: Is Citizen Journalism unique to war zones?

BC: I don’t believe so. I do think it has a particularly important role in war, and can be particularly effective. The specific advantages of “citizen journalists” are their connection to the community, their long developed trust, and personal knowledge of the community. These are all traits that are particularly important when getting to the heart of important stories in conflict areas.

RJ: Can journalism really rely on subjective reportage like this?

BC: I don’t think it necessarily is subjective. In fact we take a great deal of effort to provide context and even second guess our own work in public, expressing a kind of “full disclosure.” This is a perspective. CNN, Fox News, BBC, are all also “perspectives.” They couch their perspective in the guise of balance and objectivity, however they only report a certain portion or perspective of the news, of each story. Given infinite time and an unwavering commitment to honest straight up truth telling, we would either have incredibly boring news, or spend a lifetime just hearing what happened one week in New York City, much less Baghdad, Oaxaca, Afghanistan, India, or Japan. We take great pains to commit to journalistic standards and get many sides of each story.

RJ: How do you see the future of the video media?

BC: I’m not sure about non-journalism media. I think the future of video based in journalism is bright. I think the falling cost of video production equipment and the rising access to broadband internet could enable many more people to tell their stories than ever before. I hope that video in the future increases understanding, communication, and tolerance among peoples.

RJ: What has the local and international response been to Alive in Baghdad?

BC: It has been good, but it has not been as wide as we would like. We know that our show is watched on 6 continents, and viewership has increased steadily. We would of course like it to grow at a faster rate. It seems that whether they like our content or hate it, they appreciate the bravery of our correspondents and keep coming back for more.

RJ: Have there been safety issues for you living in Iraq?

BC: I have only lived in Iraq for 3 weeks, although I spend 4 months of the last year in the Middle East. I hope to return to the Middle East in January and to Iraq if security and finances permit. Our correspondents have not been so lucky. They have been kidnapped, arrested, detained, shot at on multiple occasions, driven past exploding bombs, and one correspondent’s assistant was killed when he was shot in the head, apparently by a US soldier. This is daily life in Baghdad however, and any of those events might happen just driving from one part of the city to another, much less working as a journalist in what has been termed the most dangerous war beat in history.

RJ: What can you tell us about the situation in Iraq beyond what we’ve heard from the traditional media?

BC: I think what I can say is better said by the interviews on our website. However I will say this, the situation is probably worse in Iraq than anyone might imagine who has not been there or in any similar situation. The people are also stronger and more dedicated to freeing their country and running it themselves than we might be able to understand. Iraq may split up in the coming years, but certainly much of Iraq has more contiguity than its 85 years of official state existence can demonstrate.

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