As much as we love a great web series or a snarky commentator, there’s probably nothing proving the Internet’s rise as a media source more than the emergence online of quality journalism — aka “real news.” And there’s probably no one online more committed to delivering real news than Brian Conley of Alive in Baghdad. Case in point: When Conley and other web journalists were detained in China this year while covering a Free Tibet protest at the Olympics, it scored coverage from NewTeeVee, BoingBoing … and PBS and the New York Times.
Conley created Alive in Baghdad‘s network of Iraqi journalists as a response to the traditional news media’s “Live from ____” style of plopping one of their own into a foreign hot-spot for a sound byte or two. As he says in a Rocketboom interview, “People live in Iraq…. You can talk to them about what their lives are like. You don’t need to send some American or Western journalist to parachute in and … interpret it.”
But Alive in Baghdad is not about a pretentious show of man-on-the-street grit; it provides faces and emotions to attach to the nameless statistics usually making their way to us from the Iraq war. We’re reminded that this is a nation of people not so different from us, people with passionate callings, with heartbreaking struggles, and with as many opinions about our politics as we have about theirs. And when Conley was detained, or, more tragically, when AIB correspondent Ali Shefeya was killed late last year, we were reminded that stories like these are brought to us because of an extraordinary commitment, sometimes at an extraordinary cost.
And news doesn’t get any more real than that.