New at IdeaLab: An interview with Baghdad Brian

Over at IdeaLab, I’ve interviewed Baghdad Brian, who I met in October 2007 at the first Networked Journalism summit Jeff Jarvis threw at CUNY.  At the time, Brian was raising money to keep Alive in Baghdad going, and we did everything but pass a hat around the room to try to back him up.

The next time I remember hearing about the project was two months later, in December 2007, when one of the citizen journalists working with AIB was killed.  At the time, it wasn’t clear whether or not his murder (he was shot 31 times) was related to the story he was working on.

Brian popped up on my radar again over the last two weeks or so, as he quickly ramped up Alive in Tehran, exploring different communication channels to get stories out of Iran during the current post-election upheaval, protests, and violence.

I spoke to Brian by phone a few days ago. You can listen to the audio at IdeaLab or read the full transcript.  Here’s a sample [emph. mine]:

“…I don’t really have any contacts there. I have a couple of contacts, it’s sort of funny, because we did look into trying to set this up, back in…a couple of years back, sort of looking at doing a project in Iran, with a couple of filmmakers who are known over here and in the blogosphere. I got the impression that nobody wanted to be associated with a project called “Alive in Tehran” because it was too political. It seemed political, inherently. And it is to some degree political, because we’re making this statement that we don’t necessarily need the foreign press to go and say “Live from Tehran, this is what you need to know.

Check it out.

At IdeaLab: Paul Bradshaw on crowdsourcing investigative journalism

Over at IdeaLab, I’ve been way past deadline for a post, after (again) making all sorts of promises about helping out more over there.  Until now.

After playing the modern equivalent of phone tag (Twitter DMs and e-mail across two operating systems and one ocean) for a week or so, Paul Bradshaw and I landed on Skype at the same time for 15 minutes for a quick chat about his freshly funded project, Help Me Investigate.

Here’s the post at IdeaLab, where you’ll find the full video interview.

If you want to head directly to the background on this, read Paul’s post about the funding and the next steps for the project.

Here’s why I’m so interested in this project, and in my Knight News Challenge project ReportingOn, and David Cohn’s efforts with Spot.Us, and in the Collaborative Reporting tools we launched at Publish2 recently:

I really, REALLY, REALLY want there to be easy ways to gather structured data from readers, users, journalists, and editors, and I want that data to be attached to their identity whenever possible.  I want that data to be portable and exportable, so it can be displayed in any and all useful formats. I want profiles for everyone so I can track their participation, reliability, and levels of knowledge about different topics, beats, locations, and stories.

I’m becoming more and more passionate about this, with my level of surprise that no one has built the right tools for this job yet growing by the day.  But we’re getting closer.  Platforms are emerging.  Standards will follow.  Collaboration is key.

Quick interview for BCNIPhilly

Sean Blanda hit me up today for a quick attendee interview for BCNIPhilly — that’s BarCamp NewsInnovation for the uninitiated, and you should show up to tell everyone about that cool project you’ve been busting your butt on for the last N days, weeks, or months.

Here’s the tough last question from Sean:

“Final question, and its an impossible task. With one word, finish this sentence: What the news industry really needs is ___.”

Anyone care to answer that?  It took me two words.

And then I expanded.

IdeaLab: One week of ReportingOn, international style

Yes, yes, I know I haven’t written much here lately, but my reading and blogging time is mostly getting happily occupied with development on ReportingOn, which has been open for a week now in a public beta.

The most noticeable thing about ReportingOn so far is the strong Spanish- and Portugeuse-speaking turnout.  Seriously, North America, where are y’all at?

The awesomeness that is the Spanish-speaking media blogosphere has been kind to me so far, though.  Yesterday, Pablo Mancini, who works at the beautiful El Comercio in Peru, interviewed me by e-mail.

I’ve posted the English version at IdeaLab. Check it out:

Q: It seems there are quite a few non-US journalists, several of them from South America, among the first 100-odd users. Had you counted on so many non-Americans joining so fast?

A: The biggest surprise of the first week, which you and your colleagues are the evidence of, is the huge turnout from Spanish and Portuguese-speaking journalists. I’m scrambling to come up with an intelligent way to deal with the different languages on the site without creating too many divisions between users based on their location. As a researcher, it’s really exciting to me because it’s what we might call an “unintended use” of the site, and as a developer, it’s exciting to have a sudden need to push something up the feature queue in a hurry.

So, tell a journalist or blogger with a beat about ReportingOn, and I’ll keep working on adding features like comments, better profile pages, and an assortment of other things on my list.