This weekend I’m in Seattle for the Journalism that Matters conference taking place at the University of Washington in Seattle. Journalists, photographers, media-makers and documentarians will gather for this three day event, to discuss issues that are effecting the world today. This conference is set-up as an open space, “un-conference” where the participants determine the actual content of the conference days, and the schedule, though structured, is flexible in attendance and movement.
Within the last few years, a visible divide has emerged between all media with this idea of new media versus traditional media. It doesn’t really make much sense to divide media into two sparring factions when in fact they can be working and collaborating together. I often find myself in the citizen journalist role, not so much by my strive for journalistic photo features but more by my own personal documentation that I funnel to the internet. I have been known to say that “if you didn’t stick it on the internet, it didn’t happen.” This often arises fits of laughter, but most people find this statement very true. This extends past your twitter and facebook, but into hyper-local citizen journalism as well.
My professional photography career has taken me all around the world, covering various events from TED events, to conferences, to the last two Olympic games, to the most recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. My camera has been the eye through which I view historical events, as they are happening. My ability to successfully showcase my photos in a digital format, allows a wider audience than just me, to also view these historical events in potentially realtime.
Citizen journalism is role that I have just found myself in within the last few years, solely because I happen to be at the right time, in the right place, with the means to capture the events around me – which for me is my camera. The amazing thing about citizen journalism is that anyone can fill this role, with their highly professional digital camera or simply the camera on their cellphone.
Having the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen as a photographer for the Fresh Air Center really pushed my own personal boundaries of what the role of a citizen journalist really is. I was able to shoot photos during the actual negations in the Bella Center, on the media floor amongst international NGOs in the Fresh Air Center and then actively on the streets during the many protests and marches that occurred during the two week conference.
My camera was witness to some of the most intense police brutality and overt militarism, as well as celebrity climate change activists, to the Yes Men who pranked the entire world. The challenge that arose for me was trying to find my connected heart in my photography during COP15 when the structure of photo-journalism up until most recently has always taught us to be objective and disconnected.
Here at Journalism that Matters, Chris Jordan gave a presentation about the photographs he took during his trip to Midway Island. He presented a video that he made, which was first debuted at PopTech this year in Camden, ME. This video consisted of images he shot of young albatross, that had died from plastic consumption. The 6 minute video was accompanied by the musical soundtrack of Christen Lien and challenged his viewers to feel the immense feeling of such images. The one driving point of his whole talk was that the next evolution of journalism or art creation, is finding the passion in your work and allowing it show through your art.
Some of the questions that are being raised at this Journalism that Matters are:
– How do we envision the role of the artist in the future of journalism?
– What is the potential for news as a performance?
– What should journalism be in the 21st century?
– How do we create sustainable freelance communities in an increasingly decentralized newsroom?
Currently I am actively involved with organizing independent media coverage for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. W2 Woodwards is hosting a media house for the duration of the games, which will play host to many citizen journalists, including Fearless City Mobile, the Olympic Legal Observer program and many other communities that will be covering various events. There will definitely be a passionate side to this particular kind of coverage of the games because as citizens of Vancouver, we are personally invested in the news that will be occurring in our own neighborhoods.
The entire world will be watching the Olympic Games from various media outlets, but this particular Olympics proves to stand as the most highly covered on the internet than any previous one. Citizen journalists are more than ever working together as a collective, in their collaboration, sharing of resources and general support. This network will definitely be necessary during the games so it is very exciting that W2 will be a host as a central homebase.
The definition of journalism is changing in the revolution of our documentation of the world around us. I am very excited to be able to capture the games as they happen in my own neighborhood. Stay tuned for my photojournalist and social media documentation of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
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