Last week, Kenyatta Cheese shared some thoughts on the murder of Indymedia journalist Brad Wills. He asked some questions about the place of activist-journalists in this new world of citizen’s media. He called the shooting
probably the first death of a citizen journalist during the era of citizen journalism, though I doubt it will be blogged as such. Indymedia reporters tend to be thought of as independent journalists and not citizens for some reason. While both are unpaid and non-professional, Indymedia wears their politics on their sleeve. While this is polarizing to some, their passion and faith also keeps them sustainable (at least more so than the prospects of a free t-shirt) — something we need to learn from. Meanwhile, citizen-J efforts remain mostly incidental journalism, more ready to fulfill the promise of urban sensing systems than the tenets of civic journalism.
We participatory media heads need to think about Brad Will and what his story means for our own immediate communities. While our peers are more likely to face a Apple vs. Bloggers lawsuit than the threat of physical harm, it doesn’t absolve us from at least thinking about the social (and dare I say moral?) responsibility we have to prepare our users within reason.
Kenyatta identifies something that oft goes unmentioned: indymedia makers and other activist journalists are often seen as the obnoxious uncle that no one wants to get to close to during the holidays.
In that light, initially I didn’t note much “mainstream citizen-journalism” coverage of Will’s death. Looking around, I found mentions by Romenesko, boing boing, and media bistro, but most of the blogging about the murder was done by ideological fellow travelers, including Al Giordano at Narco News. Jeff Jarvis mentioned Will’s death; in the comments, Andy Carvin points to the memorial blog Brad Will: Presente. But Zulma Aguiar has been covering Will’s death as thoroughly as anyone; she points to Will’s final video work, which apparently (I have not watched it) ends with his shooting. NYC Indymedia just posted a statement from Will’s family.
In recent years, the only times I recall looking at indymedia.org have been to find protest news; even then I often don’t learn much. Indymedia was the first Internet-driven citizen journalism movement that I found. Its volunteer reporters were an important source of news during the era of “anti-globalization” protests in the halcyon late-90s before September 11th. “Don’t hate the media, become the media,” a phrase popularized, if not coined, by Indymedia in Seattle
c. 199 89 [thanks, dee dee, for the correction] is still germane, if not fully embraced by media ownership critics. Indymedia’s experiment in de-centralized journalism and collective editing were important, if ultimately failed, experiments in that set the stage for later projects.