About this project
(Like all the great photos and video clips in my video? See where they come from here.)
I want to report the Syrian conflict for people unfamiliar with it. I want to do journalism that focuses on the stories of Syrians (not Obama or Putin).
I will do my principal reporting during a two week trip to Lebanon in August. I plan to interview Syrian refugees on camera across the country, in Beirut apartments, borderland villages and the tense northern towns near Tripoli. I’ll ask them questions that will interest an unfamiliar audience, questions I haven’t heard asked before -- about their lives before the war, what they were looking forward to, and what they’d be doing now if there was no conflict. I believe my reporting will appeal to an American audience far more than the run-of-the-mill updates or reports of sectarian violence that most major news outlets release.
Everything will be released under a Creative Commons license to encourage sharing and tinkering. I'm also toying with the idea of releasing all the footage online, for free, so that anyone can use it. I'll probably do that too.
I’ve chosen to go to Lebanon because there are no Syrian refugee camps there, and many are forced into very dire situations. Their stories need to be told visually and personally.
I will use this funding to purchase my airline tickets, my lodging, transport, travel insurance and my fixer in Lebanon. Everything's in order -- I know my fixer and I have an itinerary, I just need help getting there.
The work involves original reporting, web design and coding, and will also serve as my Master’s Thesis at NYU’s Journalism Institute. But more than anything, I want this to serve as a precedent for the kind of human rights reporting I want to do after I graduate in December.
I want to make an immersive and valuable experience for people online.
For more on Syrian refugees in Lebanon, see this summary by the UNHCR or this video from Al Jazeera. Interested in the war in Syria? Start with this recent FRONTLINE episode.
I will begin my project in July and publish the final product - an interactive documentary introducing people to the crisis in Syria - in December at SyriaDeeply.org.
Risks and challenges
There are certainly a number of risks and challenges involved here, not the least of which is the safety and stability of the region. From talking with other journalists who've worked there or live in Beirut now, doing work much like what I'm planning to do, I feel encouraged that I will be safe throughout the trip.
Many refugees are hesitant to show their faces on camera for fear that their relatives in Syria may be targeted. I'm sure I'll meet plenty of people unwilling to give their real names or show their faces, but I'll find many who won't mind.
This project requires that I hire a fixer. I've already secured a very busy and hardworking freelancer in Beirut who will work with me once I get there. He'll serve as my translator and will help me get the story and avoid the bureaucracy and hassles.
If setbacks come, I'll face them head on. After all: I just lost my funding, a month out from my trip, and I haven't quit yet!
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