“For me, being the media has been the goal of my project … and hopefully other people can see that a guy who was working as a mountain guide and volunteer rescue worker on Mt. McKinley can decide to go work in Iraq as a journalist to combat the horrific reportage from the corporate media ... If I can do this work to change the media, so can other people.”
Photo Linked From: http://kdvs.ucdavis.edu/library/dj_images/Dahr_Jamail_SCruz_001edit.jpg
Dahr Jamail will be the first to tell you that anyone can do what he’s doing. “Journalism is not rocket science,” he tells us: the only requirements are that one has a desire to tell the truth, to report all the angles of a story and then to get out there and do it. This is encouraging to hear from one of the first independent or “unembedded” American journalists to report from Iraq, as well as the recently published author of a new book on the war, Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket: 2007).
Before all this started, Dahr split time between his work on Mt. McKinley, Alaska, and his job as a writer for an alternative Anchorage newsweekly. Then there were the terrorist attacks of 9/11, followed by the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent build-up for a war against Iraq. Disturbed by what he perceived as the mainstream media’s misinformation campaign surrounding the war, Dahr felt he had to do something to correct the situation. An untrained journalist (he had earned his B.A. degree in philosophy) with barely enough money to finance a trip to the war zone, Dahr describes his conversion to full-time war reporter as an “act of desperation.” He ended up spending a total of eight months in Iraq, including reporting from the city of Fallujah while it was under siege. At a time when most Western journalists were “embedded” with the U.S. military, Dahr’s independence paid off in several scoops.
He reported on allegations of U.S. soldiers torturing prisoners in Iraqi jails months before the Abu Ghraib story broke (in April ’04). He also uncovered the American military’s use of a chemical weapon against the citizens of Fallujah. Dahr notes that it was his reporting on this highly lethal incendiary, white phosphorous, that sparked further investigations by the Italian television station Rai24 and The Independent (UK). This all led to an eventual admission by the Pentagon that, indeed, white phosphorous had been used in offensive strikes against the residents of Fallujah.
Dahr’s stories have been reported in The Guardian (UK), Democracy Now!, the Nation, and the BBC. While he has not been abroad much lately due to the security situation in Iraq, he continues to post commentary and reporting on his website, www.dahrjamailiraq.com.
Aside from being paid for his stories, Dahr’s revenue is supplemented with donations – either through his website or through the public presentations he makes regularly at colleges and bookstores across the nation. In a message that might assuage the concerns of aspiring citizen journalists, Dahr maintains that as long as you’re honest, efficient and consistent in your work, “the revenue will be there.”
As he encourages ordinary citizens to get involved in the media, he reminds us that there is no better time than now to start. Dahr’s message is a hopeful one: that as more people become aware of the deficiencies of the mainstream media, more opportunities will open up for citizen journalists to make their mark.