My latest Guardian column is about Zeyad and his birth as a journalist — and war correspondent — as a tale about what the tools of citizens’ media can help create.
So witness the power of the humble tools of citizens’ media. A citizen dentist used them to become a journalist. He used them to give the world a unique and human perspective on a story where too much is unreported. He gained an appreciative and supportive audience around the world. He helped give birth to a new medium. And journalism is all the better for it.
(Nonregistration version here.)
We all need to help Zeyad, the pioneering Iraqi blogger and journalist, come to America, where he will attend CUNY’s new Graduate School of Journalism. To get his student visa, he must show support for the year and a half that he will be here and that means raising at least $45,000. We are reaching out to foundations and individuals and working on scholarships and Zeyad is working to raise money. But that won’t do it all. We will. All of you inspired Zeyad to blog and give his invaluable perspective on Iraq. That inspired him to give up his career as a dentist and report for his blog as well as for NYTimes.com, the Washington Post, and the Guardian. So now I hope we will all show what the blogosphere can do and raise the funds one of our own needs to come to America to study. You have two means to give.
On Zeyad’s site, click on the CONTRIBUTE button and give a donation directly to him via PayPal or credit card.
Or you can give a tax-deductible contribution to CUNY earmarked for Zeyad’s scholarship. Send your check made out to “Cuny Graduate School of Journalism” to:
Dean Steve Shepard
CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
535 E. 80th St.
New York, NY 10021
Make sure to note that this is for the “Zeyad Scholarship.”
And please spread the word on all your blogs. Zeyad is one of us and we help our own.
Over the years, many of you kind souls have offered to contribute to a tip jar on my site. Do this instead, please.
Zeyad writes about coming to New York and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
I have been reluctant to change careers, but quite frankly there is nothing that I can add to dentistry in Iraq, whereas the field of Iraqi online and print journalism is lacking in many aspects, and I hope to contribute to filling that gap. Also, living and studying in New York city is a more like a dream to me that is closer to coming true.
Of course this is not final yet. I need to provide evidence that I have the required funds to pay for tuition and living expenses in order to be granted F-1 immigration status to enter the US. And I am not a wealthy man, as many of you know.
Unfortunately, I have no means yet to solicit donations, so I would appreciate connections to possible foundations or organisations willing to fund this endeavor.
We are trying to figure out a way to accept donations that some of you have already offered. Please hold that thought!
Some big news in the blogging world, revealed today in the Wall Street Journal (free link):
Zeyad, the amazing blogger behind Healing Iraq, a founding father of the Iraqi blogosphere, has been accepted to the City University of New York’s new Graduate School of Journalism (where I’ll be teaching). But we all have to pitch in to help him get there, for one has to have tens of thousands of dollars in the bank before getting a visa to come to the U.S.
Zeyad will have a tip jar up where you can help him directly. But frankly, even with the best work of the entire blogosphere, I doubt we’ll be able to raise all the money he’ll need. So I appreciate any connections to likely funders: foundations, companies, or individuals who want to help build journalism in Iraq and the Mideast.
Zeyad is a born journalist. As soon as he started blogging, I told him he should give up his chosen field, dentistry, and take up reporting. He laughed at the time but now he has been reporting not just for his blog but also for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian (all of whom, I hope, will pitch in assignments to help bring him here!). And he is coming to the j-school in New York.
As the Journal story by Yochi Dreazen reports today, Zeyad has chronicled not only the events in Iraq from outside the Green Zone and from an Iraqi’s perspective, he has also chronicled his own view of the war with an honesty and lack of ideology not present from other sources. Zeyad began his blog elated at the prospects of freedom and today, surrounded by constant violence, his view of those prospects is quite different.
I’m very excited to have watched Zeyad’s birth and growth as an outstanding journalist. I look forward to working with him at CUNY. I’ll be writing about this more but I wanted to let you know about the news immediately.
Richard Sambrook, the visionary director of global news at the BBC, blogs about the role of citizen journalism but, more interesting to me, he codifies what professional journalists do in a distributed world:
So if information is commodotised, and the public can tell their own stories, what’s the role for the journalist? I came up with three things – verification (testing rumour and clearing fog), explanation (context and background) and analysis (a Google search won’t provide judgement). And journalists still have the resources to go places and uncover things that might otherwise remain hidden. Citizens can do all of those things, but not consistently, and with even less accountability than the media. Brand still matters.
I would add that the professionals also have to add a few new roles, both of which require a new level of openness and generosity: They need to share their knowhow with citizen journalists (I dare not say “train” them but rather let their reader-colleagues know how to avoid libel or get access to records or doublecheck a source). And they need to share trust (that is, find out who knows their stuff and link to them, since the professional journalist can no longer pretend to cover everything). [via David Weinberger]
Paul Conley goes to a confab of college media advisers (which, unfortunately, I couldn’t attend) and writes a frightening report on the attitude of some journalism students today who want to maintain the old and obsolete distinctions among media. I have been arguing that people in newsrooms must tear up their business cards, getting rid of their job descriptions as print or broadcast or new media. All media are new today. Conley makes it apparent that the same thing must happen in schools; we have to tear up the tracks:
Perhaps the strangest thing I’ve run into is what I’ve come to think of as the silo student. Kids keep handing me resumes that look like they were written 20 years ago. They mention the student newspaper, the yearbook and the college literary magazine. But they don’t mention Web sites, blogs, email newsletters, podcasts, html skills, citizen journalism projects, video, etc. And when I ask the students about their online experience, I get these weird responses. Lots of them tell me “I only want to work for a newspaper.” Lots of them say things like “I’m going to be a writer, not anything else.” Some seem genuinely perplexed and ask me if I think “most newspapers have Web sites?” or if “reporters need to do things on the Web?”
When I asked teachers what they thought about this, I found that they were as upset as I was by their students’ disconnect from the realities of media today. Teachers told me over and over again that their students were adamantly opposed to converging news operations at their schools. The print kids don’t like the TV kids; the Web kids don’t like the print kids, etc. The “cultures” don’t mix, so the products don’t mix and the students don’t develop multimedia skills. Remarkably, as one teacher pointed out, few print students actually “lived” in the world of old media. They all owned iPods. They snap photos with cell phones, communicate with Instant Messenger and join social-networking sites. Yet they expect to work in some sort of old-fashioned land of ink and paper. A number of teachers blamed the disconnect on their peers in college journalism programs. Many programs are dominated by older, established teachers who haven’t worked in the press for decades and have an open contempt for newer forms of media. And no doubt such elitist dinosaurs are helping to create a new generation of unemployable followers.
Jay Rosen’s NYU blogging class produces a Blue Plate Special exhaustively reviewing big newspapers’ blogs, charting the state of the art, and interviewing USA Today’s Kinsey Wilson. I’ve been playing with the idea of having journalism students review media — wondering whether it was too meta — but I think this proves it works.
Here’s a good nuts-and-bolts interview with my next boss, Steve Shepard, about the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
But ask Mr. Shepard why he is here, and the first answer out of his mouth is something else. “There needs to be a publicly funded graduate school of journalism in this part of the world,” says Mr. Shepard, who took up his CUNY post last April. “There’s not one in the entire Northeast, which means if you don’t have $35,000, you’re out of luck. And that just doesn’t seem right.”
And then he segues into his diversity talk, a frequent theme: “People complain all the time that the profession isn’t diverse enough. And I don’t mean diversity just in the sense of racial and ethnic diversity, but I mean in class terms, too. Working-class people, immigrants, people who have served in the military. The press in this country is not very representative.”