Matching donations

Donations are up, and a generous offer is received.

Wow. I’m incredibly grateful that so many are willing to donate. One contributor, a gentleman I’ll call “currencia,” has offered to match, dollar for dollar, any donations that come in between now and 5 p.m. on Dec. 24. (Up to $1,000.) Since Currencia made his offer, $210 has come in.
Thank you all. We’re way further ahead at this point than last time, where it took *five months* to get to more than $2,000. This time, we’ve reached that point in less than three weeks. With the amount donated, plus my own savings, I’ll be able to get a bullet-proof vest (about $1,000), Arabic lessons and other logistic expenses, such as plane tickets, visas, deposits, etc.
Thank you so much, everyone. Your support, especially at this time of year, really means a lot. Happy holidays.


Wow. After a day and a half, “donations shot up to more than $700!”: That’s fantastic. I just wanted to drop a quick note to express my appreciation and to let you know I’m working on an entry with some more reporting in it, so it’s taking a little bit more time. But please stay tuned, I hope to have something up presently.

It’s time to get moving

It’s time to go back. Back to Iraq.

First of all, notice the name of this blog in the upper left. Time for a few changes around here. Secondly, I received this email the other day from one of my contributors:

Mr. Allbritton:
As a contributor to your trip to Iraq earlier this year, I wish you would return to Iraq and provide an outlet for the collective voice of the Iraqi people.
I have always been against the invasion of Iraq. I continue to oppose our administration’s policies. I feel that we are imposing our will rather than respecting the wishes of our fellow human beings.
Would you consider returning to Iraq with the purpose of finding out just what the Iraqis want from us at this point?
With both sides of the political fence failing to find answers, it just seems to make the most sense to turn straight to the source for answers.
If you cannot or choose not to return, can you please create a post that summarizes popular opinions of the various Iraqi factions towards the state of the country and the continued U.S. presence? Or can you create a post that points to the best WWW outlets for this kind of information?
Thank you.
Andrew Brenner
Whiting, Indiana USA

Andrew graciously allowed me to republish his note and use it as a starting to point to talk about some things.
Since the end of April, I’ve been back in New York, worked up a book proposal — which is currently circulating; my agent reports that editors are making interested-sounded noises — taught a class at “NYU”: on Digital Journalism and stewed and steamed while two countries that I love, the United States and Iraq, march further down the road to a major league cock-up.
I’m not doing anyone any good here in New York. The action is over there, and while there are more reporters doing the journalism of every day life, something — I’m not sure what it is, exactly — is missing from the coverage.
So it’s time to get a move on and go back. But not as a reporter who goes there for a month and comes home. This time I would stay, perhaps permanently. My goal is to work up a return to the region, basing myself in Baghdad and freelance for major organizations and continue running In short, I would be your man in Baghdad, bringing my voice and experience that I gained during the war back to you.
This is not some gung-ho charge into the lion’s den in search of The Truth. I’ve stopped believing there’s any such beast; there are only stories to tell. But as during the early part of the war, in which donors directed coverage by emailing me suggested assignments, I would do that again. This time, however, it would be on a long-term basis with an eye toward longish pieces that were both appealing to you and marketable as freelance pieces (a guy’s got to earn a living, even there.)
No embedding, no hiding behind the skirts of the U.S. military. The Iraqi people would be front and center, and the big media corps can cover what they do. B2I would cover what _we_ want. I’d likely start with an emphasis on the Kurdish/Arabic/Turkoman powderkeg known as Kirkuk, but only because it’s a good starting point. I’m most familiar with the issue there. However, the Arabs got short shrift on this blog during the first part of the war. I’d like to remedy that.
My goal is to have enough money, $10,000 or so, in time to be on the ground and running by March 26, 2004 early- to mid-May. Why that date? Because that’s exactly a year since I landed in Istanbul and started work as the Web’s first fully reader-funded journalist-blogger I have teaching commitments at NYU that end May 3. This time, the money would go for setting myself up and having a small padding to make it through the time before freelance cash begins to come my way.
I’m working out plans now for what to do with my apartment, where to move to in the meantime to save money, since that’s impossible on New York professor/freelance wages. I’ll probably be out on my brother’s couch in California for a few months before heading over.
And so we come to the crux of this note. You all were so generous last time, and I hate to ask, but I ask you all to feel invested again and donate to this endeavor. Same deal as before. Donors get on a special listserv that gets dispatches before the Web site does. They will get extra dispatches and photos. They also get a pipeline to me to act as assignment editors.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, you all should know that this endeavor can’t be the not-for-profit jaunt the last trip was. Then, I specifically rejected freelance assignments from magazines so I could concentrate on pure blogging. I can’t do that this time, as the money raised from this fund-raising call, as well as my own savings, will go for the initial costs of establishing a presence in Baghdad. After that, I’ll have to support myself with stringing and freelancing. But I promise you that B2I will remain a non-commercial blog with you, the readers, and the Iraqi people front and center. No one will edit this blog but me, and I won’t let other freelancing interfere with it.
So what do you say? Shall we suit up again for New New Journalism? I hope so.

Hm, that’s a good idea…

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo is asking for donations to go cover the New Hampshire primary. Why didn’t I think of that?

Josh over at Talking Points Memo is proposing to cover the New Hampshire primary for his blog by asking his readers to fund him to go on the trip.
Hm. Where have I heard that idea before?
OK. I’m not really miffed that he’s using B2I’s revenue model. I hope he pulls it off, as I think (for obvious reasons) that this kind of “epic event coverage” by professional bloggers can really advance the medium and drive the revenue model forward. I urge people to donate once he gets his plan more in place. I plan to.
But, Josh: Would it _kill_ you to mention B2I?
*UPDATE* To Aaron et al. I was _joking_ in my pique. I wasn’t really miffed, as I pointed out and I really would like to see more of this kind of journalism-blogging. As I’ve pointed out in the past, while I may have been the first, I certainly hope I’m not the last to do this kind of reader-funded reporting.

Debate on economics of pay-to-read independent journalism

Kevin Drum at has some interesting musings on a business model for independent journalism.

I’m slaving away on the book proposal as well as pitching articles to magazines, which is why you’re not hearing much from me, but has a decent little debate going in his comments section on a business model for independent journalism that David Appell and yours truly are working at.
In essence, Kevin is speculating on a kind of eBay for independent journalists, in which story ideas are pitched to readers and then the writer entertains bids from readers. Or, as Kevin puts it: “Readers could suggest stories and see if there are any reporters willing to follow them up.”
It’s an interesting thought, but I have no idea how to make it work technically. I’m sure some hot-shot programmer out there could encode the new rules of the freelance economy into an online service. But the two real questions are, can the writer make enough income from this to make it worth his or her while and will the readers get the quality that rivals what they can get from “mainstream” media.
I’ve been doodling a bit on a business model for Back-to-Iraq, but this is an idea I hadn’t thought of. (I don’t really have an entrepreneurial brain, sad to say.) Thoughts from you guys? Opinions?

A note about donations

Greetings from Turkey, all. A brief note about donations: I will not be able to reply personally to those sending them in. However, I am forwarding the PayPal notifications to Mike Hudack, who is adding the email addresses to the Back2Iraq-Dispatch listserv, so you will be gaining all the benefits of donating. I also am not updating the donor list until I get back. It’s just too much work on a slow line. You will be recognized later, if you wish. I hope you all understand.
Thanks very much for continuing to donate! The funds will come in very handy when I’m back in Turkey and I will have access to them then.
More updates later…

> $10,000

We broke $10,000 yesterday, and that means it’s time to go.

By the way, everyone. We broke $10,000 yesterday… Many, _many_ thanks to all of you. There’s no way this would have happened without those members of the _real_ “Coalition of the Willing” (formerly “Angel Investors”) to the right. Everyone on that list deserves every reader’s thanks. And they definitely have mine.
Also, George over at Warblogging deserves a big thanks for helping host this site, and helping get tons of bandwidth
My brother, Michael, will also deserve a big hand, since he’s going to be the one actually pushing the button to publish this blog while I’m in-country. The sat-phone is pretty narrow bandwidth, so I’ll email out the the dispatches on the donors’ listserv I’ve set up and later in the day, Michael will copy and paste the day’s email(s) into blog entries. (I’d link to his site, but he’s serving it on an iMac out of his home. I don’t think his ISP would appreciate the attention.)
Friends, family and others too many to mention here: You have my gratitude. This could never have happened without their support and encouragement.
And now, the fear sets in. Tomorrow will be a busy day. I’ll likely not blog until Friday when I get to Ankara and give an update, but I’ll do what I can.