The recent hype and controversy around Invisible Children, and this post by Sam Gregory of Witness has encouraged me to expand on my initial thoughts seen here on Cartoon Movement. I hope this post can provide a bit of background on how Small World News came to its current incarnation, providing all manner of training and innovative support to journalists, activists, and citizen journalists, primarily in conflict areas. It's little known to those who first learned about Small World News in 2011, but Alive in was not chosen just as a catchphrase, but a core value. I first traveled to Iraq not to tell Iraqis stories *for* them, but to do my best to act as a window for the world onto the stories of Iraqis. While the traditional broadcast media reported to the world "Live from Baghdad," I wanted to make the point that there were plenty of individuals capable to report "Alive in Baghdad." I feel it is far more important to assist these individuals, individuals who were neither voiceless, nor invisible, but primarily unheard and unseen, to be heard and be seen, telling their own stories.
I will not disagree with Invisible Children on the point that images which reflect our own experience are easier to identify with. But this also means you are making a choice not to challenge your audience to consider different characters or voices equally valuable to the images traditionally seen on television. I didn't start Alive in Baghdad and Small World News only to advocate for people in conflict areas and underdeveloped countries. Small World News was started out of a genuine desire to make the world smaller, by enabling citizens most affected by conflict to tell their own stories. I will not be satisfied just enabling them to tell their stories to Americans and first world citizens, i want to ensure they are able to tell them to each other.
Alive in does not seek to advocate for one policy or position. Small World News started Alive in to advocate for the presence of citizens in the stories told about them. Alive in suggests that no matter how good the journalist or the storyteller, it is no longer acceptable to only have stories told about people. Visual journalism and video advocacy is too often something done by experts and "humanitarians" to people or for people, not by people and with them.
Small World News exists on the notion that we want to change the course of media for the better. We want to ensure the existence of high quality, nuanced journalism into the 22nd century. The only way to do this is to ensure that those closest to the story have as much capacity and opportunity to tell their own story as the renowned, award-winning journalists currently telling their story to the world.