Iraq

Ok, fellow bloggers, I need some advice, help and maybe a little money!

You might think me crazy but I am planning a trip to Iraq with some fellow freelance journos in the Spring. ‘Why?’ You might ask. Truth be told I really just want to a few things:

1. See what Iraq is like as a country
2. To understand the current state of the occupation/transitional arrangement
3. Measure morale of the Iraqi people and US Forces
4. To get to know some Iraqi people
5. To meet with some US/UK troops

That’s my list for now, though it is likely to expand. We are currently looking at Baghdad only, though we are considering a trip to Basra.

We need advice from fellow hacks, advice from techie people on the best
way to implement a blog, and perhaps some donations to help pay for food and
a translator, and maybe a beer.

A collaboration between the online community and us, and then implemented on the ground would be pretty unprecedented, I am seeking maxium blogging and reader participation, in stories, leads, people, contacts, networking, technology, computers, internet – the lot.

A brief outline of our credentials (or lack thereof):

Gavin:
I am originally from Ireland and have run this blog since June 2002. I have worked as a technical writer and freelance journalist, I have been published in Irish broadsheets and the New Statesman in the UK.

I am perhaps slightly left of center in thinking, an avid reader of history, politics, science, philosophy and current events. I am also a trained bartender (for my sins). I am reasonably well travelled, having previously visited Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York (on Sep 28 2001), and Boston.

I have also visited the fields of the Somme valley in France (where my great-grand uncle is buried), Ypres including the fields of Flanders in Belgium, Amiens in France, and Omaha and Utah Beach in Normandy, including Caen and Cherbourg. I have also travelled to the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East, on three occassions.

Guy:
A freelance left of center photographer published in just about every major broadsheet in the UK. I will ask him to add a profile of himself shortly.

Palash:
A freelance journalist and documentary film-maker, having recently done work for Channel 4 (ITN) News in the UK. He too will add a profile at a later date.

We are all seeking to report on events in Iraq, we are critical of each other in views and political persuasion, making a diverse and eclectic mix.

Should our plan prove popular in the blogosphere we will establish a unique and well thought out meta blog – making all of our thoughts, including photos and perhaps film available to the online public. If not it will all be posted in a seperate category on this blog.

What I am interested in is creating a method by which the standard, and sometimes emotionless, way of reporting, can be complimented by the personal feelings of each of us towards whatever we see or experience. These posts would be in seperate categories, allowing readers to decide which, if not both, they wish to read.

Journalism is about reporting – but its also about experiences and more importantly, its about people. And if I see something that affects me emotionally I will attempt to write in two ways, one reporting an event, and the other telling a biased and emotional account of how I actually felt at what I have seen. I think such an experiment would create an interesting dynamic in the future of reporting and indeed blogging.

Similar things could be done by Guy and Palash. As ever with blogging, I seek help and advice from those who know best, the online community. All emails and comments are welcome, and all will be replied to.

As regards to plans, currently we are planning to get to Baghdad via Amman, Jordan. My flight to Amman has already been arranged – Guy has just returned from a three day stint in Baghdad and has established contacts with helpful people there, including members of local resurgent unions and a translator.

Christopher Allbritton over at Back to Iraq, has advised me that the costs of a trip such as the one we are planning could go as high as $7000 US Dollars. I do not expect such a sum from the online community, all I would like is a donation of whatever you feel might help us along, as small, or as large, as you like.

I would also hope to meet any of the Iraqi bloggers, including of course ‘Salam Pax’.

Currently donations can only be accepted through PayPal. If you do decide to give money then please leave a comment after this post quoting why and how much – I would like to thank whoever does.

I guess it might be time to take out some life assurance.

Update:

Dann has responded with positive feedback. I would love more ideas on how a blog could be implemented from Iraq, or implemented on my return.

Steve has responded at Vodkapundit with more encouragement – “I think what you’re doing is an absolutely first-rate idea” and “Click on the link, check it out, and maybe even make a donation.” Cheers Steve – I really appreciate the sentiment. It looks like this reader collaboration might just work…

Karlin has done a good job of bringing some of the loftier ideas back down to reality:

Personally, I wouldn’t go near Iraq without proper warzone training or
without the support of a journo or aid network that knows you are there and
for whom you are working.

You may feel this is very patronising and if so, I am sorry, but
going to Iraq at the moment to set up a blog if you are not going for other
purposes and with proper experience/training seems not just worryingly naive
but foolish and potentially extremely dangerous for people over there. A small misstep and it could be your life or others’ lives, particularly those with whom you might feel sympathy or intend to support.

Stephen Pollard has responded with a glimmer of support:
Gavin Sheridan is a young freelance journalist who is planning a blogging trip to Baghdad. Seems like a worthwhile venture to me. A comment is also left by Mark linking to the random murder of a freelance journo in Iraq in July. I did follow that story for the brief mention it got on the news.

Tacitus has decided he wants to go – though not necessarily with me. Here’s his post.

Seriously, I’ll go. Don’t think I’m kidding, either. I’m not sure what I’d do there — I guess I could write about it like I did Africa. And I’m not sure who would pay for it — if you really want me over there, you’re going to have to pitch in on that count. Think it over. Just not the weekend after Thanksgiving, because I have to go back to Rwanda then. We’d also have to work out leave from work (can’t just quit, sorry) and furious spousal resistance to the notion, but those things can be overcome. I’d also want a serious statement of purpose on why I was going: your vision for my travels. It wouldn’t be to prove how safe it is over there, ’cause it’s probably not very safe at all. X-treme war tourism won’t cut it either. I leave these details as a mental exercise. If you really want a warblogger in the war (although, really, there are already plenty of those if you know where to look), here’s your chance. Start brainstorming.

11 thoughts on “Iraq”

  1. I undertood from Zeyad’s post that the majority support the occupation forces efforts there but can’t publicly acknowlege it because it would be suicidal to do so. I don’t know if that is true or not but if it is then that is something you can only guage by speaking personally with Iraqi’s. Also Alaa’s blog talks about his concerns with anarchy and Iraqi’s confusing this with freedom. the Mesopotammian blog is obviously religious but welcomes democracy and hates the Isamlists. These are all intersting view points with one thing in common…they welcome the coalition forces there. I’d like to see how prevalent that is there. All the best

  2. Gavin,

    A trip to Iraq would put your life at risk, no question about it. Just as the lives of all the Iraqis and all the troops are at risk every day.

    However, your life might be more at risk on the highway than in Iraq. I’m not sure how the statistics break down, but I know getting in your car and driving is one of the highest-risk activities you can engage in.

    I encourage you to make this trip if you have the heart to do it.

    The world needs to know what’s going on in Iraq, and the media just don’t get it.

    Yes, they should cover the bombings and such. But where is the in-depth reporting? Where are the interviews with Iraqis about their thoughts, opinions, hopes, and daily lives?

    I read all the Iraqi blogs daily. I would love to hear from as many Iraqis as possible. If you did in-depth interviews with Iraqis and posted them to your blog, I venture to say it would be the single most important piece of reporting in Iraq to date.

  3. Gavin,

    I can tell you this much about the middle east. Put away all your notions of left, right, and center. These ideas are completely different when you enter this world and have entirely different definitions. Walk into this world with no preconceptions, for they will only bode ill for you and more importantly, the work you hope to put out.

    That said, I wish you the best of luck. I encourage you to investigate things such as what Iraqi’s are doing in order to establish democracy. I dont mean fist flailing demonstrations, rather orderly meetings, etc. Ask people about the future, what their hopes are, what their plans are. Peoples aspirations can tell you much more then morale.

    Again, best of luck, and stay safe.

  4. I think it is a great idea. I have been thinking about doing something similar. If you need an american to go i would consider volunteering. I have a military back ground and currently work as a project manager in the construction and transit feild. I would also suggest collecting donations of various items that they may need in Iraq. Perhaps things like books, toys, and the like, find out from the Iraq bloggers what they would like to recieve.

  5. Edna,
    An interesting article on the new Iraqi blog
    http://baghdadee.blogspot.com/ that cover your point..
    It is a conversation between two Iraqis “outsider and insider” over the net ,talking about many issues
    A transilated copy also available..
    Very interesting!

  6. There are two other webloggers thinking about making a trip to Iraq, including the guy known as Tacitus and the guy who runs Balloon Juice. If you’re not familiar with them, let me know, maybe I can help you hook up with them.

  7. My uncle (in law) was in Baghdad in January (as part of the UN weapons inspector team) and he had a great time there, and loved all the people he met. Let me know if you need any travel info from him, although everything is probably different now anyways.

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