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Alive in Mexico

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Small World News, it's big.

I'd like to imagine a world where an alternative global video news and documentary network has been established. A network that enables those in the areas most at-risk from human-trafficking, destruction of the environment, availability of deadly weapons worldwide, and internal disputes due to ethnic rivalries, competition for resources, and others. Such a network might have enabled Iraqis to learn from Rwandans and others about the dangers of ethnic conflict, and alternate realities behind its origins. It could enable those at risk from genocide or ethnic cleansing to speak directly to the international community rather than, as in Darfur, forcing refugees to depend on NGOs and States with their own agendas at work.

But the best thing about such a network is that its possible now. The only thing that limits our capability to build such a network is a moderate amount of funding and a vision. With the affordability of DV equipment, and more and more, HD and mpeg4 equipment, a broadcast quality mobile production studio, with archiving capabilities, can be outfitted for well under $10,000.00.

I believe within a few years time we can create an international network, with community video units, aka "bureaus" operating in five regions or more, producing and distributing content for their local community. However, what gets me really excited, is knowing that utilizing the internet we can now broaden the reach of those teams to one that is truly global. We can create a new "60 Minutes" style program, where the stories are defined by those most affected, where using twitter and blog commenting and other outlets the viewers and community members alike can drive the discussion and offer questions and feedback.

But we can also broaden our reach beyond video, utilizing tools such as Utterli to enable members of the community to make radio reports on an individual basis(see our work on Alive in Gaza), or partner with Ushahidi to assist mobile phone users to contribute from areas where a video unit has worked recently or is preparing to travel.

We can utilize video to build a focus, a groundswell of attention, and then broaden to other social media tools that in some communities will be better suited for long-term and regular usage.

Alive in Baghdad, as one of the most award-winning, though arguably one of the least-funded, web video projects, has shown the viability, the strength of this medium. We can distribute the stories of individuals and communities in crisis across not only their community, country, or continent, but the globe. In so doing, we may be able to curb many of the great intractable issues of our day.

All we need to accomplish this is possess the will to do it and, as always, a little funding.

We need your support to make this happen. If you're a grantwriter, or you know grantwriters, please write.

If you have suggestions about funding sources, or locations you'd like to see us put this model into action, please write.

If you have resources, whether funds, equipment, skills or otherwise that you'd like to contribue, please write.

Comment below or email us at smallworldnews at gmail dot com, and let us know how you can help or give us your own testaments about our work.

Together we can imagine a world of many voices, a big world made small. Together we can build Small World News.

On behalf of my colleagues worldwide, from Kenya to Iraq, Mexico to Afghanistan, I look forward to working with you in the future,

Brian Conley

Director, Small World News

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Brian Conley on Johnny's Partay Wednesday, the 13th

This is just a note to let our readers and viewers know that Brian Conley will be on Johnny's Partay this Wednesday, November 13th. Come watch and join in the discussion. You can ask Brian questions via chat, or via live webcam if you have an Operator 11 account! Check out <a href="">Johnny's post about the event</a>, to learn how you can participate and engage in discussion! If you have questions for Brian about Alive in Baghdad's work, or stories you'd like to suggest, come join in!

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Alive in Baghdad News and Press!

We're fortunate to have some very good news to report! We have raised 1770.00 dollars since I posted that we were broke. That means we'll be able to continue the project for the time being, but we are still seeking support in the form of monthly subscription payments, which are currently stalled at about $225/mo (that's less than 10% of what we need to run the project each month). We hope you will consider making an ongoing payment if you haven't yet, and you value the work of Alive in Baghdad. We are lucky to have a colleague who has made a substantial loan to the project, which will keep us going at least through November. We are uncertain how long this arrangement will be tenable, and hope that the donation of $2200/mo by one dedicated supporter will encourage those of you who have not yet taken a moment to support the work of Iraqi journalists, who risk their lives each week to bring you they type of detailed stories you can't find anywhere else.

Last but not least, we have received a bit of media coverage of late! Please check out this great story by Dan Rubin of the Philly Inquirer, profiling Alive in Baghdad. Also, if you're in the New York Area, Brian will be speaking on the Bryant Park Project between 7 and 8am on Friday October 26th.




Small World News Renews Vitality of Old Media?

A friend sent me a link to this article in the Hollywood Reporter this morning. So apparently ABC thinks what we're doing is viable and the future of at least some portion of news. Make no mistake, we started opening new foreign bureaus in Summer 2006 with the establishment of a weekly program produced in Iraq. We're happy to see that other media are following our lead, now we hope a savvy investor will recognize we're doing it better than the old media, and cheaper. How? The answer to both is the same, we employ locals with local knowledge and relationships. ABC is still insisting on sending foreign nationals trained and salaried at ABC into the field. Hiring foreign nationals is expensive, and they don't have the same local contacts and networks.

I hope this is good news for our work and that we'll be able to locate individuals or organizations/investors to collaborate with at the Networked Journalism Summit next week, given this news and of course our own track record.

On the funding side, we've raised about $800 so far, which is approximately 1/3rd of our expenses to cover Baghdad staff and necessities. Please consider making a subscription payment if you haven't yet, and you appreciate our work. Also remember Alive in Mexico needs your support as well!




Sustainable? Profitable? Actionable?

Jeff Jarvis recently raised some very interesting questions about the future of "networked journalism" and "sustainability/profitability." If you're reading this blog you probably already know about our first and second ventures. The first warning I'll make is that, if you don't know me, I'm an unrequited idealist. Which is not to say I'm an optimist, and certainly not much of an economist. However, I will say this. There is a difference between profitability and sustainability. At least in the short term. In the short term, you don't have to be in the black to be sustainable, as long as you're not in the red.

Now I'm an idealist, but I'm also a cynic. I doubt the problem with Jeff's entrepreneurial students is the lack of pressure to earn so much as the lack of "something to lose." Why has Alive in Baghdad been immensely successful and survived on a shoestring budget, while producing high-quality documentary shorts every week for a year, yet it is far from profitable? And why can't CNN do it?

I would argue it is a non-quantifiable combination of idealism, desire, patience, practice, and nothing to lose. I would also argue that this is part of why our Mexico project is not moving as fast as we'd like. I also have an easier time understanding the cultural nuances of the Middle East, I'm still getting my Mexican education.

Now Jeff, understandably, thinks capitalism might be the answer, as does this commenter, and this one.

I just think that most people in the privileged world aren't thinking about the human problem, nor do they think the poor and un/under/less-privileged, in America or Africa, can take care of themselves. We're producing Alive in Baghdad for a lot of reasons, one of which is because we can, and another of which is because we have to.

Of course, because we can, is the part of the why that depends on sustainability. We're working on ad models and ideas about licensing material, as well as parallel funding opportunities, but more about that later. Let's just say that while things are rough now, we have good ideas on the table. We have to be sustainable, because we want to continue, and we want to keep helping people around the world who have historically not had access to the international media. We want to take RSS, ADSL, and CCD and CMOS chips and do something revolutionary with them. Web 2.0 is not a revolution, it is a tool, one of many, which can either be used for profit and individual benefit, or for mutual understanding and the collective progress of humanity.

Last but not least, I mentioned the word "Actionable" in the subject line. What I mean by that is another thing that flies in the face of the idea that "innovation" is only possible with profitability. Yet another reason that Alive in Baghdad exists is that, despite all the reasons not to do it, and the risks and lack of apparent profitability, there was an opportunity and I acted.

I personally believe that there will be more innovation if there is more action, which is why I'm an idealist. But I'm American, and I know Americans, which is why I think its unlikely there will be much more action in the future, and also what keeps me from being an optimist.

OK, really lastly: Without profits, there would be no such thing as journalism. Excuse me???

Jeff, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't profitability a post-mid-20th century ideal of journalism?