Who’s a reporter?

Who’s a reporter?
: In a wonderfully candid post about himself and his weblog today, Zeyad, the new Iraqi blogger, says:

…I must reiterate that I am not a journalist. I’m merely trying to give you an idea on how the average Iraqi think about such events, or what kind of stories are circulated on the streets.

I must disagree. Zeyad is a journalist in a new (or very old) definition of the word. He is a reporter and is proving to be a damned good one.

Zeyad is reporting what he sees and feels and hears — and thinks. He is the witness who tells the world what is happening around him. Just like the consummate pro Tish Durkin (see the next post below), he is doing a great job of trying to put us there in Baghdad, so we have a better idea of what is happening. That is a reporter’s job.

: A few days ago, Zeyad had a post about a story circulating in the city, of a woman who supposedly brought a baby to a hospital wrapped in explosives. Says the tale: “After questioning the woman she confessed that the baby was kidnapped and that some Arabs had offered her a considerable amount of money to get the baby inside the crowded emergency hall in the hospital, leave it there and they would do the rest.”

Having seen this nowhere else, I wrote it off at the time as urban legend. I figure there must be enough urban legend going around in Baghdad to choke Snopes.

What’s interesting is that today, Zeyad addresses the issue of whether this story is credible or whether it is urban legend. He doesn’t know.

Iraqis have been talking about it since Friday. Nobody has either denied or confirmed it officially. I also read about it in Azzaman, an independent Iraqi newspaper published in Iraq and the UK and edited by Sa’ad Al-Bazzaz a highly respected Iraqi journalist. Saddam’s Mukhabarat agents tried to assasinate him more than once in both Jordan and the UK. They never print urban legends or rumours. It is currently the number one newspaper in postwar Iraq. I highly doubt they would publish such a story without sufficient evidence. I tried hard searching for other sources but without any luck.

I didn’t make up the story. And I would never put propaganda on this blog. You can check it out for yourself on their October 25 edition (if you can read Arabic).

So Zeyad is learning to do what a reporter or an editor should do: check his stories. He is a journalist.

: There are more interesting notes in the post about the Riverbend blog and the blog that now mocks it.

Also, note that Zeyad has put up a biography of himself, with a picture.

It seems to me that he is being as open as he can.

There’ve been a few trollish posts on my blog about whether he’s legit (a kneejerk response after those questioning Salam Pax — all of whom were wrong). Well, I haven’t met him and so I can’t give you his DNA. But I haven’t met Atrios or Andrew Sullivan, either, and I think they and their opionions are legit and worthwhile. You know Zeyad as well as I know Zeyad. I say we’re lucky he’s there.

: I’ve been engaging in a lot of excited blather lately about citizens’ media and citizen journalists. This is why. Yes, it’s exciting for me to see new layers and levels of information and perspective that can emerge now that the people formerly known as the audience have history’s easiest publishing tool connected to history’s best distribution network. It’s exciting to see that in a town in America. But it’s particularly exciting in a town in Iraq, where we can certainly use new levels of information and persective, especially from the people most affected. All the people who give us that information are reporting so we can decide what we think the real story is.

: Yes, Zeyad is a journalist. He’s turning out to be such a good one that I just sent him email asking whether he really wanted to be dentist afterall.

  • Yeah, he seems real and honest, but i still say: Never trust anything on the net. Fact check everything against reputable news organizations (which does not mean the LA Times). Otherwise you might find yourself believing that 9-11 was really a jewish plot or some other net silliness.
    Or it could be more sinister than that. Al Qaeda operatives could create fake blogs to trick westerners, to give out disinformation.
    so to quote Public Enemy: “Don’t Truss it.”
    But don’t take that as a knock against any specific blogger.

  • Well, if he’s good enough for Jeff, he’s good enough for me. Anyway, I’m not sure if fake blogs can withstand a good ol’ fisking for very long…
    But you’re right: the price of freedom (blogging etc) is paid for by ever increasing levels of scrutiny. Otherwise, you can just go back to the newstand and let the NYT/Guardian do the scrutinizing for you. But… now it’s our choice, not theirs.

  • Diana

    But Riverbend the “shrill” is a much better one. She has a superb post up today coolly analyzing the probable perps of the combination suicide bombings/attacks of Monday. A must-read.

  • well, fakery is not the only problem. You also have a danger of slant. I mean imagine if blogs existed during the civil war. Who would be blogging? The white plantation owners. And who wouldn’t be? black people, and poor whites. So even without intentional deception, you would be getting a BS point of view.
    Blogging is very democritizing in the US, but that is because our infrastructure is not shot to sh**. I have to wonder how accessible it is to the lower eschelons of Iraqi society. So don’t trust this stuff too much.

  • Hmmmm, A.W….. I’ve met plenty of poor/poorish Southerners when I worked offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. They didn’t care for Yankees much either.
    “If only the lower class folk had more acccess to technology (i.e. wealth) they’d be saying something completely different to what we’re hearing.” What would they be saying, exactly? Or are you just putting words in their mouth?

  • Jabba the Nutt

    I haven’t read Zeyad yet, but you’re nailing the point that this is about the Iraqi people, not nitwit Democrat politicians spreading their poison for political gain or anti-American propagandists dismissing the desires of the people of Iraq.
    It’s about the hopes and dreams and desire for a normal life for Iraqis. Anything else is crap.

  • Jabba the Nutt

    Hey, A W, how do you know blacks and poor whites wouldn’t be blogging. Frederick Douglass was extremely active and prolific during that time. Why wouldn’t their be underground slave blogs?
    Have you read the letters written during the Civil War? Literacy was of a higher quality and rate then, than now after 150 years of public (socialized) schooling.

  • Jeremy

    Well, bear in mind, blogging isn’t exactly trying to fly around the world solo in a balloon – you don’t have to be rich to do it.
    Blogspot is free. And while some prominent bloggers whine a bit when their broadband doesn’t work or their laptop is having problems, you can do it using an ancient machine, or in many cases, at an internet cafe (I believe that’s what Zeyad has mentioned he does)

  • Well, if it is cheap, maybe, but i am still suspicious. Look you don’t have to listen to me on this, but I say, take it with a grain of salt.
    As for the Fred Douglas point, um, yeah you would have 1 slave blog, and 2,000 plantation owner blogs. Just saying, that unless this internet is incredibly cheap (and then there is the language barrier), you have to question about whether the cost distorts the message.

  • dc

    Diana, I’m not sure I’d characterize Riverbend’s analysis as “cool” when she ends up fingering Chalabi for the UN, embassy and police station bombings! Major Sean Bannion has much, much more to say about this.