Wheels up! Well, tomorrow evening, anyway

Ready to go, and if you need more reasons to want an independent journalism, read on, McDuff.

Tickets are purchased, gear is tested (mostly), packing is commencing and everything is coming together. I’ve not posted much these past few days because of the overwhelming number of loose ends to tie up. Plus, at the moment, I don’t really know any more than what’s on CNN et al. What’s the point of regurgitating? Starting this week however, the real purpose of Back to Iraq comes into view, as this becomes a much more heavily reported site instead of one based on analysis and commentary. (That will still be there, but in much smaller portions.)
I’ve been doing a fair number of interviews, too, as various media members want to know my story. Often they ask me why I’m doing this, what do I expect or hope to get out of this, am I crazy, etc. Well, I’m probably crazy, yes, but what I’m hoping to get out of this is some respect for the Web (and blogs) as a serious medium for independents. To all the journalism professors who say blogs aren’t “real” journalism, I say, “I don’t see you getting out of your tenured chair and putting your butt in the middle of Kurdistan to report on what’s happening.” To those who say, “You’ve got no editor,” I reply, “My readers are my editors.” To those who complain, “You’re biased, you offer nothing but op-eds,” I reply, “I am biased, but at least you know where I’m coming from. And just wait until next week when my butt is in Kurdistan.”
There have been a couple of stories of journalism being pulled away from its mission by corporate masters. While these are no means the rule, they are troubling.

  • Kevin Sites was shut down. While I wasn’t always impressed with his work, he did take some good photographs. CNN’s decision to shut him down is puzzling, considering he was saying nothing that would annoy his employers.
  • The BBC’s War Diaries, while interesting, seem a bit like an afterthought. And no doubt they are. The BBC reporters work hard.
  • And finally, Paul Krugman has reported in his column that Clear Channel, operator of approximately 1,225 radio stations, 39 television stations and which has equity interest in more than 240 radio stations, has been organizing pro-war rallies around the country.

As Krugman says,

the company’s top management has a history with George W. Bush. The vice chairman of Clear Channel is Tom Hicks, whose name may be familiar to readers of this column. When Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, Mr. Hicks was chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Company, called Utimco, and Clear Channel’s chairman, Lowry Mays, was on its board. Under Mr. Hicks, Utimco placed much of the university’s endowment under the management of companies with strong Republican Party or Bush family ties. In 1998 Mr. Hicks purchased the Texas Rangers in a deal that made Mr. Bush a multimillionaire.

It should also be noted that Clear Channel is a major donor to the Republican party. Since 1997, the chairman and CEO, Lowry Mays, according to FEC records, has personally given $11,250, almost all to Republican candidates. (The exception is Rep. Charles Gonzales of the 20th District.)
Krugman’s point is partially that Clear Channel is doing a favor for George W. Bush, but his main point is that major corporations — including media companies — are merging with the government “into one big ‘us.'” The danger of this should be obvious.
Anyway, there’s so much going on now. It’s impossible to know the whole story of this war. But that’s OK, I’ve come to realize. It’s more important to tell a few stories of the war rather than the story of the war. That will have to be written later. And when the narrative is told, the media will have major role — mainstream, freelance and independent alike. And perhaps someone will look back and say, “The blogosphere stepped up to the plate. With commentary and analysis, its members provided a tonic for much of the mainstream media’s excesses. Others provided a meta-analysis, providing their readers with as much of a bird’s eye view of the coverage as possible. And for the first time, they sent one of their own to war.”

Salam’s alive

Thanks to Allison who pointed out that Salam Pax of Where is Raed?, the Blogger of Baghdad, has posted and seems to be doing well. I have contacted him and requested and interview for B2I. That’s assuming I can make it down to Baghdad, that is.

Thanks to Allison who pointed out that Salam Pax of Where is Raed?, the Blogger of Baghdad, has posted and seems to be doing well. I have contacted him and requested an interview for B2I. That’s assuming I can make it down to Baghdad, that is.

Sorry for the update delays

Sorry for the lack of updates today. I was out purchasing supplies (MREs, camp meals, etc.) and other materials. Also, I got the sat-phone today and I have to say the Motorola 9505 is pretty freakin’ cool. Found a cheap ticket to Istanbul and I’m now only waiting to tie up a couple of loose ends: fund transfers and the laptop, which comes Monday.
Tomorrow I’ll have more updates.

Kevin Sites has been shut down

Kevin Sites has been shut down.

Distressing. According to Kevin Sites, a CNN cameraman who was blogging from Iraq, he’s been shut down by CNN. I don’t know why — perhaps he was taking too much time from his real job — but it’s a shame. And it shows why it’s important to get independent, reader-funded journalists out there. As I said in my trip update last night, I’m looking to ship out Wednesday and hope to be in-country by next weekend. Any extra, last-minute donations are most welcome.

Trip update

The gear is acquired! Sat-phone will be coming tomorrow and new laptop should be coming Monday or Tuesday. GPS receiver is in hand, and my old trusty digital camera is waiting to ship out.
I’ll be getting a ticket to Istanbul next week, perhaps as soon as Wednesday. From there, I’ll meet up with a friend in Ankara and we’ll head to the Syrian border. After that, Iraqi Kurdistan. I hope to be in country by next weekend.
I was hoping for $10,000 at a minimum, but the big dose of funding I was hoping for from a major university has not come through, and I don’t think I can wait anymore. So I’m going to cut the trip a little short (probably two weeks in Iraq as opposed to a month) and go with what I’ve got.
Donations are still most welcome, of course! Every little bit helps, and I really, really appreciate everyone’s support. If people want to keep donating, I can still access the funds while in Turkey. After that, however, I’ll be using the cash reserves.
By the time I get there, Iraqi Kurdistan could be Turkish-occupied, a humanitarian disaster or a cheering land of happy Kurds. We’ll see. It’s a hideously complicated place, and it will be a good litmus test for America’s intentions.