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February 28, 2007

Our Turn: Making Our Own Media

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Photojournalist Tim Fadek, Michael Shaw ("The BAG"), photojournalist Alan Chin.

New York City, April ‘06.

To web netizens and readers of BAGnewsNotes,

Oppressed by what is commonly referred to, world-wide, as "the filter," documentary and news photographers see the blogosphere as something revolutionary.  Simply put, this screen represents a window between you — the informed and rapidly growing progressive audience — and unrestricted, powerful and visual truth.

Let me be more specific, however, about why photojournalists are so intrigued by this medium:

Whereas a photographer might sell a few pictures to the MSM based on weeks, months or even years worth of effort, we have the space, format and focus to study and appreciate any number of images.

Whereas the photographer is typically pigeonholed as the purveyor of pictures alone, we can offer photojournalists reporter and witness status, accommodating visual and verbal accounts ranging from news to commentary to personal reflection.

Whereas a photo in the print medium might reach a couple thousand people, a key image, boosted by a link or two, can easily reach tens of thousands of receptive viewers in the blogosphere. (The BAGnewsNotes post  featuring Alan Chin’s amazing Katrina images, for example, has had almost 33,000 visitors as of this morning.)

Whereas a photo story, run once in print, can be used up forever, the blogosphere — as a narrative form — thrives on continuity, almost demanding a photographer follow up or keep ongoing track of a story.

Finally, the blog, as a discussion medium, allows you and the photojournalist to have an ongoing dialogue, expanding the experience, exchanging ideas, answering questions and providing encouragement.

Over the past year, I have steadily increased the amount of original photojournalism here at BAGnewsNotes. Besides our regular contributers, Alan Chin and Tim Fadek, you have lately seen work by a number of Spanish photographers, including Lourdes Segade, Héctor Mediavilla and Ariadna Arnés.

Still, we could do more.  Much more.  Although many photographers are willing to informally collaborate with The BAG,  the one factor that would make a significance difference is compensation.  I am not proposing anything beyond our means, but if Firedoglake readers could raise the funds for the site to cover the Libby trial, why can’t we — the BAGnewsNotes community and friends — create our own media fund, offering good will payments to photojournalists in exchange for particular collaboration or ongoing relationships?



So, what exactly am I asking for?

I’m asking your help to fund more original photojournalism for BAGnewsNotes.

If we can raise enough money to show were serious, it would allow me to develop informal affiliations with individuals and cooperatives, underwrite a few ongoing photo projects, and even help subsidize some photographers on assignment.

For a couple months now, I have been thinking out this concept with several friends of The BAG.  Here’s what we come up with:  Boiling down the 25-30,000 page views per week, BAGnewsNotes has a daily core of approximately 1200 readers.  If each one of you gave an average of $25, that comes out to $30,000.  There’s a sweetener, though.  One friend of The BAG has committed to donating 50 cents for every dollar raised, up to $20,000.  That means, if we — together — can raise $20,000, he will provide us with $10,000 more.  … As I see it, that’s a lot of images.

Collectively, were not talking about a lot of money, if we all chip in.  And, over time, the deeper the relationship we build with photojournalists, the stronger material we’ll have on the site, and the more new readers we’ll bring aboard to increase our funding power.

Of course, if you’re not in the position to donate, or donate much, I understand, especially if you already enrich our discussion with your comments.   For that reason, I wish to make a special appeal to readers with the passion and the means ( if that’s 2% of the readership, then there are at least 24 or you I’m reaching out to) to give between $200 to $500, or more.  (Of course, if you’d like to discuss it first, I invite your email: MShaw AT BAGnews DOT com)

If you believe in the mission, admire my four years of (free) daily output, understand the vital importance of the political picture, and, most importantly, you want to create a precedent for the completely independent, grassroots support of social and political photojournalism, please click a button below, and be generous.

After all, with the rise of the blogosphere,  we have the opportunity to do something incredible.  We can make our own media.

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Because Amazon has a $50 maximum,, please use PayPal or send a check (address below) to give more.

Some fine print:  All donated funds will go to photojournalists for the procurement of content or contributing relationships.  Not one penny will go toward this site and its maintenance, which I commit to underwriting, forever, out of my own pocket (along with whatever ad revenue might be generated).  …Ideally, I would only ask for a contribution to our media fund once a year (although it might be twice, I’ll have to see).  … Besides occasional posts on the project, I will create a summary every six months describing where the dollars, euros, etc. are going, which I will make available, upon request, via email.)  …If you absolutely must send a check, you can mail it to: Michael Shaw/Our Own Media. P.O. Box  3217, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266. Please include email address.

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