Tag Archives: Citizen Journalism

The Citizen Journalist’s Legal Guide to the Inauguration

There is no doubt the four-days of events for this Presidential Inauguration will be a shit sandwich. Well, let me rephrase. Pack light and don’t drink liquids. With 2 million people (plus locals) – do you really expect a place to pee?

All kidding aside, this post is for you, for us: citizen journalists. Come hell or high water we are determined to bring gear and capture the moments. Watching Obama on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – pinched between hundreds of thousands of people en masse before him. We will witness a political awakening in our neighborhood, on our steps, in our country. And the world will be watching.

Thanks to the Citizen Media Law Project and the ruthless research of the one Harvard Law Student, we have the Guide to Documenting the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. This legal primer has been put together with information from (1) the Secret Service, (2) DC Metro Police, (3) U.S. Capitol Police and (4) National Parks Service.

Here are some highlights from the report:

You should have no problem if you bring small, handheld equipment and carry it in a small bag (but not a backpack). 

Tripods, backpacks and large bags (exceeding 8″x6″x4″), including camera bags, are not permitted.  A non-exhaustive list of additional prohibited items is available at the website of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and the Secret Service Presidential Inaugural webpage.

Now, where does it say anything about a flask? Get the full report here!

Happy documenting!





The Street Team’s Real World: Paychecks Late Again

A year ago, I was hired to report on the election for MTV News as part of their Street Team ’08. I was thrilled – and so stoked that the Knight Foundation provided MTV with about $700,000 to run the program. With my gifted gear, I was ready to reach out to my peers, get some formal clips and gather lessons about life, journalism and the shape of our nation.

Did I ever.

Today Gawker broke the story about how MTV has been continually late on paying the Street Team. My heart just about dropped as one of my Street Team colleagues sent it to me. (I was the Washington, DC Rep for the program.) “Wow,” I thought. “This shit is finally out.”

Here is the story of how 51 totally connected, mobile, ambitious, do-good nerds…were recruited, called Street Team ’08, and taught a very personal – and public lesson about the world we live in.   

Back in the summer, we received the first indication that MTV was not able to meet parts of their contract. Our paychecks were late. The official line from the company was “This is not just happening to you,” and that all other freelancers at the company were also not being paid on time. On the private Street Team list serve, the conversation raged. Admittingly, I listened more than I participated as I didn’t always notice how late they were. I, very fortunately, had another job that was more than understanding of my late hours and commitment to the network. What I didn’t have was more than four hours of sleep a night. But when you want something enough you make it work.

On the list serve, the team began to commiserate about not being able to pay bills on time. This is when I realized it was serious. We were under tremendous stress to meet deadlines and produce quality, Emmy-award winning work. (The program won an Emmy last month.) One of our colleagues lost his job because he updated a MTV post at his office. Another quit (well, many quit), because the time requirements were so enormous and the pay was hardly enough to cover expenses. Soon, the resignations began to pour in.

Each time a Street Teamer resigned, he or she was replaced and an email from our Producers would follow. To be honest, I did not blame any of them. It was a grueling 11 months, one that required us to hold down other jobs, work late into the night and wearily try to use the MTV Brand to land unbelievable interviews and opportunities.

But one thing happened that I never expected. The lesson now, has become so relevant to the news we were covering – and our experience with MTV at the intersection of our nation’s financial crisis, the meltdown of traditional news media – and how the innocent idealism of youth that helped change a nation’s course – was exploited. What happened would wake us all up – on the Street Team, to the Real World.


** This was difficult for me to write because despite the issues, I learned a tremendous amount about life, new media and the path I want to take in journalism from the Street Team experience. More than anything, this is not a personal attack towards any individuals who communicated the bad news to the team. Without them I would not have gained so much out of the program.

Social Media Making Policy

I was at lunch today with an old Washingtonian. She is someone who had a big impact on politics in the ’80s and well into the ’90s, as a female pioneer and a staffer in the Senate. I have no doubt from her stories that she totally kicked ass…which I totally, completely respect.

But today, I mentioned a way the new generation was kicking ass. And her look was of total disgust — which I took as a complete compliment.

In the days after the election, new media leaders like Jim Gilliam of Brave New Films, have created Web portals for voters to continue their civic engagement. Sites like Change.Org and WhiteHouse2.Org are modern social voting tools – that allow interested users to rank the policy issues that matter most. With that, some raise to the top, others fall, and eventually will disclose a microcosm of what voters want.

These two sites act almost like social bookmarking sites such as DIGG and Technorati. While it may sound crazy… there are some real players creating and partnering in these initiatives.  Will social networking change the world? Who knows. But as Howard Dean said,

“The Internet is the most important tool for redemocratizing the world since Gutenberg invented the printing press.”

Who knows how far this will go – for good and for bad. We will have to wait and see how far the Millennials, with the help of Obama and his leadership, take it. But from my perspective, the future couldn’t look brighter.

Street Team Final Video Favorites

It was certainly a historic election to cover, perhaps in ways I will only understand with time and reflection. Last night as I dozed off and looked over my video camera perched on my tripod, I thought about all the times we spent together. Will I ever be out on the trail again with my mobile pack? I sure hope so. But in the meantime, I’ll take the break to relax, reflect and write about what the experience was like…for better and worse. It was one of the greatest learning experiences in my lifetime.

For the final video, we all had the same assignment. Create a highlights reel of our work. I wanted to include not just mine, but a few of the others that I particularly enjoyed.

Best of ST ’08, Washington DC

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The National Mall Takeover

In April, there was an Earth Day Concert on the National Mall. I fought the rain, went and reported it – and think it is one of the coolest pieces I did. I got schooled in comedy by Chevy Chase and even better, discovered my peers engaging eachother on the election and issues, with beers in hand, on the National Mall. Who said we aren’t active? We just do it on our own terms.

Here is why it just came back to me. Less than 24 hours after Obama became the President-elect, in a lightening speed fashion, social network invitations starting pouring into inboxes across the country. The call to action for Obama’s Inauguration – was for everyone to Caravan to Washington to have “our own Inaugural celebration on the Mall.”
Hotels are sold out. In one facebook group alone, there are 1,939 confirmed guests. This is amazing. Who else is in?

The Digital Video Impact

It is not the kind of scare tactic you might expect. But with more than 70,000 views in 24 hours just three days before the election, the Obama-Biden camp is yet again successful at marketing a message. This viral ad poses the question to viewers: “On November 5th, Will You Have Done All that You Could Have?”

Here is a particularly good example of a video that leverages amatuer footage to give a very clear call-to-action in under 3 minutes.

Reporting Live from AP on Election Night

From the MTV News Press Release that went out yesterday

****UPDATE: Watch AP’s “BIG ISSUE: ELECTION RESULTS” LIVE web cast Election Night, starting at 7:00PM EST. Here’s the link: http://video.ap.org/v/Legacy.aspx?partner=en-ap 

“Two MTV Choose or Lose citizen journalists will take part in the first-ever Associated Press live streaming online continuous video stream, “Big Issue: Election Results.” Both will report their experiences from being on the ground, covering the youth vote throughout the year. The webcast will be available to some 2,000 Web sites of newspapers, broadcasters and other AP customers throughout the U.S. beginning at 7 pm ET on AP’s Online Video Network at http://www.ap.org.”

Be sure to check myself and Nevada Street Teamer, Michael Gonzales, as we show a few of our best videos and talk about what it has been like to be a part of the MTV-Associated Press Youth Press Corp.

Delaware Street Teamer Sticks It!

I just discovered the most clever video any Street Teamer has made. And because of that – I have no choice to but first drool over it and then post if for everyone to see.

Stephanie kicks ass in this video — and as I posted on the blog, raises the bar for us other citizen journalists on MTV’s Street Team ’08. She threads her wit with good looks to play off of Paris Hilton’s political ad (see below) with many thoughtful messages. I dig it more than the time we stayed out in Time Square clinking glasses and teasing silly boys. Congratulations, Stephanie.