Brian Conley – Alive in Baghdad

Posted on 04. Oct, 2007 by in Broadcast, International

Your work in networked/citizen/collaborative journalism.
Right now we work with locals in Iraq and Mexico, and produce to weekly programs, Alive in Baghdad and Alive in Mexico, We hope to expand to other locations and are currently discussing other projects as well. Alive in Baghdad looks at the impact of the war from the perspective of Iraqi citizens, we attempt to cover all aspects of the war’s impact on Iraqis living in Baghdad, and have also covered the refugee crises in Syria and Jordan. Alive in Mexico was started in November 2006, when I travelled to Oaxaca to cover the ongoing conflict there. I met two Mexicans who were hoping to start an internet television project showing events in Mexico and it was a natural fit. We worked together while I was in Mexico and they have been trained as well. We launched a weekly show about life in Mexico. The new show covers everything from political turmoil to Mexican culture. Our hope is to provide a more interesting and nuanced look at life in Mexico.

What are your goals?

Small World News is a collaborative between a small American team and journalists in Baghdad and Mexico City. We partner our skills and know-how in editing, video-blogging, dsitribution, and knowledge of journalism, accuracy, bias, etc. with teams of local citizens and journalists, trained to use small DV cameras and shoot for the web. In this way we’re able to produce powerful local content that has a global impact. We hope to continue building bureaus around the world and change the way we learn about different parts of the world, providing windows on as many under-served locations as possible.

Notable achievements?

We have produced a weekly program on life in Baghdad for over a year, covering stories such as the Adhamiya Wall, visually and more fully than done in the media before, and the plight of refugees in the Al Waleed Camp on the Iraq-Syria border, which had previously been seen nowhere else. We have also taken the time to look carefully at the plight of Iraqi civilians in a way not possible in the current TV news climate. We swept the first awards show for Video Blogs, the Vloggies, taking home seven awards. We were also nominated for a Webby in 2007. We co-produced a documentary for BBC Newsnight and SkyNews solicited five of our episodes for broadcast.

Lesson you’ve learned (including mistakes you’ve made)

I’ve learned that, as always, patience is a virtue. Also, it is important to consider the business model and sustainability of a project, as well as its importance to society. We’ve also found that unfortunately, video on the web is not paying for itself yet, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear model for monetization. The hardest part has been dealing with companies’ fickle interest in our content, and trying to simultaneously leverage our blog status, while promoting our journalistic credibility.

Are you getting revenue for this? How?

We have had a variety of revenue sources over the last two years. They have ranged from donations from our viewers, to small grants, as well as speaking fees, and the largest contribution has been by licensing our content to old media institutions. We hope that by putting together a solid plan for continuing to license content, we can build a sustainable company. Our latest plan for ongoing revenue has been to offer voluntary subscriptions to our viewers, we are now making around $200/mo in contributions of 5, 10, and 20 dollars.

What’s next? What do you need to get to the next level?

We are looking for mentoring in journalism, as we have mostly learned this by the seat of our pants and reading books. We are also looking to train news companies looking to make the transition to video in how to do it. We’re hoping to make contacts with companies that need this help, but also with entrepreneurs who may want to collaborate in order to find the funding/financing/horizontal income to make our work sustainable. We’d be excited to speak with anyone looking to collaborate.

Anyone you’d like to talk with, learn from, or work with at the summit

David Cohn, Michael Rosenblum, Jay Rosen, Arianna Huffington, Tom Rosenstiel, Bill Mitchell, Andy Solomon, Emily Gertz, Lila King, Bill Densmore, John Bracken, Rory O’Connor, Brian Storm, Chrys Wu, Blake Eskin, Donica Mensing, Tom Whitwell, Mark Lukasiewicz, Robin Hamma, Edward Roussel, Jeff Burkett, I gues we should just say there are many people I want to meet at this thing, I hope there are enough hours in the day…


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