PR

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Interview Audio: Sheldon Rampton, PRWatch.org & SourceWatch.org

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Listen to the Interview with Sheldon Rampton of PRWatch.org & SourceWatch.org (Length: 14:45)

More interviews from the Personal Democracy Conference.

Subscribe to Interview Audio

Transcript Coming Soon...
May 16th, 2005

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Community Audio: Kent Bye Interview by Robin Good

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New Media trendspotter Robin Good conducted a 24-minute interview with me last week talking about pre-war US media, the collaborative aspects of The Echo Chamber Project, and the Open Source Intelligence Conference that I attended.

Good has put together the most comprehensive launching pad to The Echo Chamber Project so far filling by his post with a lot of good pointers and graphics. He introduces me and the project by saying:

Kent Bye, is the author of a unique film documentary in progress that may become a future model for grassroots citizen journalism, while showing how to invest filmmaking skills and ideas in a production that has some real informative values and developing the first web-based collaborative video editing approach to build open-source movies and documentaries.

Check out the rest of the post, and the complete transcript for the interview here.

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Some Pioneering Efforts in Independent Film Distribution

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Now that it is so cheap to produce and distribute your own multimedia material, the value added provided by distribution companies is not as much as it used to be. The Internet has shattered the previous barriers for distributing video and information around the world, which has created an information explosion. And as Herbert Simon says, "a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention." So the mainstream media companies and movie distributers are now competing with individual bloggers, podcasters and videobloggers for the attention of audiences.

And so instead of pre-filtering gatekeepers deciding what will and will not be published, now anyone can publish anything and it is up to post-filtering systems like Amazon's recommendation systems or word of mouth that is built up from a network and community of followers.

Below are a few pointers to how this environment is changing the field of film distribution...

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Links to Pre-War Information

I've done a lot of raw research concerning the build-up to the war in Iraq for my film that I haven't published yet. This post aggregates some information that I just formatted as well as points to some other raw data that I already had aggregated.

237 Statements from Bush Administration on Iraq
On March 16th, 2004 Henry Waxman published a database called "Iraq On the Record," but it was eventually taken offline.

I had archived all of it into my timeline, and I just reformatted all of the statements, color coded them, and put them all underneath one URL:
http://www.echochamberproject.com/iraqstatements

White House's Pre-War Talking Points
I've also aggregated the White House's Talking Points from 9/18/02 to 3/19/03 onto one page:
http://www.echochamberproject.com/whtalkingpoints

They call these talking points the "Global Message of the Day" that were carefully crafted and coordinated by the White House Iraq Group.

These messages of the day correlate pretty well with the public record content, and it's a great way to see the overall trends of their pre-war communication strategy and to isolate specific shifts.

I've digested the highlights of their PR strategy to sell the war here:
http://www.echochamberproject.com/overview

Selling the War through Anonymous Sources
Often times politicians will speak off the record when they don't want to be held accountable for what they're saying, and so I compiled 5 months worth of ABC and CBS reporting that was based upon anonymous sources.

It's pretty evident that the Bush administration went a lot further in their off-the-record statements, than their on-the-record ones.
http://www.echochamberproject.com/anonymoussources

Waxman's Iraq On The Record Database: Pre-War Bush Administration Statements

On March 16th, 2004 The Commitee on Government Reform published a database called "Iraq On The Record," which featured 237 pre-war and post-war statements on Iraq from the five top members of the Bush Administration. Henry Waxman requested the report, and it was introduced on the website by saying:

many doubts have been raised regarding the Administration’s assertions about the threat posed by Iraq. Prior to the war in Iraq, the President and his advisors repeatedly claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that jeopardized the security of the United States. The failure to discover these weapons after the war has led to questions about whether the President and his advisors were candid in describing Iraq’s threat.

Selling the War in Iraq: A Look at Anonymous Sources

Often times politicians will speak off the record when they don't want to be held accountable for what they're saying.

So in the case of the build-up to the war in Iraq, there were many instances where the Bush Administration would use the cloak of anonymity to push forward their agenda, which was to convey to the American people through the press that the war was inevitable and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

For example, on January 13, 2003, ABC Pentagon Corresponent John McWethy reported the following:

Sources say the Bush Administration is preparing to take its case for war to the United Nations soon after January 27th. And, Peter, they say it doesn't matter what UN inspectors report.

Wow. It doesn't matter what the UN inspectors say? This is never something that the Bush Adminstration would come out and explicitly say, but their actions leading up to war certainly indicated that they were only interesting in proving that Iraq was in violation of UN Security Council resolutions to justify going to war.

Sometimes reporters would even explictly report that the US officials were saying that they were only interested in finding a tripwire for war like when CBS News White House correspondent John Roberts reported on 12/5/02:

The White House is providing some intelligence to the UN teams, but inspectors in Baghdad say if President Bush knows where Saddam is hiding his weapons, he's certainly not telling them. Officials say the president is holding the intelligence close, in part to lay a trap for Saddam in anticipation of a flagrantly false weapons declaration this weekend. Catching him in a lie would bolster the case for war, though the administration still hopes the Iraqi people get rid of Saddam before it comes to that.

ABC State Department correspondent Martha Raddatz also reported on 1/3/03:

US officials are well aware that the UN report may not contain any conclusive evidence of weapons of mass destruction, but some US officials don't think that matters. A US official told ABC News today that, despite the absence of definitive evidence, the US and a few other countries will likely say Iraq has failed to account for weapons of mass destruction it has been known to possess in the past. But what comes next is unclear. Some Bush Administration officials are arguing that the US should then simply tell the UN Security Council that the US is ready to attack Iraq, and urge the Council to support the effort. Other US officials argue that the inspection process is working and should continue."

It's interesting to note that there were anonymous Bush Administration sources who were willing to admit that there was not conclusive intelligence that Iraq had WMD -- even when Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell were making very conclusive statements that Iraq did have stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Here's another skeptical anonymously sourced report from Raddatz from 12/8/02:

But a senior official tells ABC News the US has no smoking gun that proves Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, although the official says the circumstantial evidence is strong and compelling.

"Circumstantial" -- Indeed.

Read through some of ABC and CBS television news' pre-war reporting that that was based upon anonymous sources below, and ask yourself, "Is this information reliable?" And if it's not reliable, then ask yourself, "What is motivating the sources to say what they're saying?"

The biggest surprise to me in looking over this time period was a report from March 13th, 2003 in this whopper of a story introduced by Dan Rather:

And US officials are telling CBS News tonight the war against al-Qaida, as they see it, has been won. And while that undoubtedly would be great news, they are quick to point out that the overall war on terror is far from over. CBS' Jim Stewart reports tonight on the apparent collapse of al-Qaida.

What? How in the world could the government say al-Qaida has been defeated? And why would they want to say this off the record right on the brink of going to war in Iraq? Could it be that they wanted to convey the message that going to war in Iraq wasn't going to interfere with the War on Terror? Could it be that they were trying to distract the American people and the news organizations from the fact that the second UN Security Council resolution aimed at authorizing the war was going down in flames?

I don't know, but it's certainly interesting to look at what messages were being conveyed to the media by anonymous sources during this time period.

Look at the collection of quotes below, and tell me What sticks out to you?

Feel free to compare these with their explicit talking points from this pre-war time period -- or with their specific on-the-record statements

What types of things were they saying off-the-record that they were not willing to say on-the-record?

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Received Fellowship for We Media Conference

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I got an awesome surprise for my 29th birthday today -- I was awarded with a fellowship to attend the We Media Conference in New York City!

This is really great news for me and The Echo Chamber Project.

Not only does it does is waive the $695 fee, but more importantly the American Press Institute's Media Center will be publishing a statement from me about my project on their website as one of the 15 fellowship recipients.

UPDATE: He is the We Media announcement about the 15 fellowship recipients.

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Formatting to Optimize Vlog Remix Potential

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The video blog creator wants to be properly attributed for their work, while the remixer would ideally want to have footage that can be seamlessly used in their productions.

So not including any watermarks or titles is in a vlog entry could encourage remixing. But at the same time, the original content creator wants to maximize the attribution for their work.

I sent the following two questions to Ryanne Hodson because she is in the process of remixing this vlog entry for the Rasiej campaign for Public Advocate in NYC.

I eventually decided to experiment with my second video blog entry by publishing two different versions -- the original version with titles and a more remix-friendly version without a watermark or any titles.

For future episodes, I'll probably chose to only publish versions with watermarks and titles until my film is completed -- at which time I'm open to releasing more remix-friendly versions.

Below are some more thoughts on finding the best balance between what's in the best interest of the creator and remixer...

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Using Citizen Journalism to Open Source Political Campaigns

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I sent the following proposal to Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej to open source the national aspects of their campaign for New York City Public Advocate by remixing citizen videojournalism reports into their communications strategy.

This could provide a viable model for how traditionally top-down driven political campaigns could release some control by collaborating with issue-based advocates on more detailed, Long-Tail messages that go beyond the least common denominator audience.

I heard from David Weinberger that Rasiej was having a conference call last Wednesday for political bloggers, and some other surprise guests.

I joined this conference call where Rasiej said that they needed help spreading the word to New York citizens to vote for him on September the 13th.

Rasiej talked about the national implications of his campaign for how Wi-Fi in NYC would be a cultural and political trendsetter for other cities to do the same -- as well as how he intended to use technology to facilitate grassroots activism and bottom-up democracy.

The only problem was that Rasiej campaign hasn't had time to craft this message on their own, and so they asked bloggers to make the case for him.

It just so happened that I had just completed my second video blog episode where I had already made the connection for how technology is changing media, politics and leadership.

So I suggested that they remix my second vlog episode by cutting out my message out and inserting their own. Using the Creative Common-Attribution license encourages people to do this type of remixes as long as they provide a link to EchoChamberProject.com and an attribution in their video.

This would encourage both of us to promote our respective vlog entries to our network of contacts.

And it also allows us to experiment with how citizen journalism and activism could be used to collaborate with political campaigns.

Below is the more detailed pitch that I sent to the Rasiej campaign laying out my vision for how this type of collaboration between citizen journalists and political campaigns could work. They gave it the green light, and the remix will start being produced next week by vlogger Ryanne Hodson.

Hey Micah and Andrew,
During the conference call yesterday, I noted some pressing desires for your campaign, and I think that I have some innovative solutions to some of them.

I talked with vlogger Ryanne Hodson, and she is willing to remix the following five-minute video on how technology is changing media & politics into a shorter vlog entry that communicates how your campaign can catalyze a larger movement of grassroots, participatory democracy.

This would require gathering a few sound bites with Ryanne, and then having her edit these juxtaposed with the sound bites that I've already gathered from experts at the Personal Democracy Forum.

Here is link to the 5-minute video
http://www.echochamberproject.com/vlog02

Below are more details on how these SOLUTIONS can fill your DESIRES and accomplish your BOTTOM LINE.

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BBC Article Has a Picture of Me on OurMedia

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There is an article on the BBC website today called, "Citizens do media for themselves" that features a screenshot of OurMedia.org with my picture on it.

BBC OurMedia Screenshot

The article doesn't explictly mention me or The Echo Chamber Project -- it was written before my first vlog episode was featured on the front page.

The caption reads, "Ourmedia members are encouraged to be creative"

I discovered this from vlogging pioneer Steve Garfield who wrote to me saying, "the picture in this story makes you look creative."

Cool.

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