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Here lie the remains of a diary I attempted to write last October. I found this topic incredibly interesting, but like most of my writings it remains incomplete and un-published. The topic, however, is relevant, and warrants future study. The implications of a new media system which allows unfiltered access to anyone who may be interested are exciting. I shall be watching future developments in crowd-sourced journalism very closely.

Greetings from Missouri,

I am unhappy to announce that I am writing this post from back in my perch in the midwest. After spending the last five days being intimately involved with the Occupy London and Occupy Wall Street protests, I have returned home to take care of some business I postponed all summer.

In the past week, I have met some truly dedicated and inspiring people working diligently to change the corporo-political status quo. They are people from all walks of life and all corners of the world, standing together as a cohesive community intent on change we truly can believe in. Our cries of discontent were at first either ignored or marginalized by the mainstream media but were picked up by blogs and smaller independent outlets from all over the world. Video logs, photo diaries, livestreams, twitter, facebook, freelance articles and talk radio shows all provided raw, unfiltered information on the occupation and its gradual spread. It has created a new media paradigm which is poised to tip the titans of journalism on their side and prove how empty their role in providing information truly is.

It wasn't until a few violent acts by the now infamous  NYPD "whiteshirts" were caught on video and went viral that the major press organizations yawned and lazily opened one eye to examine the protests. Then, after the incident on the Brooklyn Bridge, where over 700 citizens practicing their First Amendment rights were arrested and stuffed in paddy-wagons, the MSM arched an eyebrow and curiously wondered what was causing this racket. They sent their shock troops; reporting teams armed with shotgun mics, tank-like cameras and an army of editors in support from the news room to cover all aspects of the protest. Making sure, in the process, to interview as many diverse viewpoints as possible (so as to get the clearest picture, of course) and film the most offensive signs that FCC sensors would allow. Or, as John Stewart put it, that mainstream media coverage comes two ways, blackout or circus.

Coverage was horrible and biased by the usual suspects, lazy and routine by the majority, but in-depth and comprehensive by a select few (RT -- I'm looking at you). The pundits then did their job, which is to box a huge story into a tight little package and then bicker about it without reaching a consensus. In the end, the MSM process left the average consumer of news with only a vague understanding of the Occupy movement, as they often do with many important things. Their coverage of the Iran protests was measured and inadequate. Their coverage of Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya was fraught with inaccuracies and fear-mongering. Their coverage of Spain was completely absent. Finally, their coverage of nearly every Occupy protest was dismissive and often covertly hostile.

However, in the face of such a pitiful showing by the media groups with the largest audience, the protests spawned a new method of outreach using live-streams, youtube and the power of twitter and crowd-sourced journalism to fill the gaping holes left by the rest of the MSM. It began with Iran, as videos were uploaded to Youtube which were able to show the world the raw footage of protesters being brutally suppressed. It continued with Spain, as hundreds of thousands took to the streets and photos and videos were immediately uploaded displaying the power of solidarity. Egypt and Tunisia exemplified the possibilities of the new crowd-sourced media paradigm as they led directly to the downfall of two somewhat oppressive regimes. Here, in the United States, it allowed for a refutation of the many gross inaccuracies pushed by the same media powers which treated the far smaller Tea Party protests as events of equal or greater renown.  

Looking towards the future of crowd-sourced journalism, I see many exciting possibilities. There are a great variety of tools which are available to nearly everyone and offer the potential for very large exposure. The most important development has been the cheap availability of cameras. Nearly every cell-phone manufactured in the past four years includes a built in camera, most of them capable of recording video. While the quality was poor at first, the latest generation of camera phones can record nearly high definition audio and video. DSLR cameras, flip cameras and other HD recording devices are now cheap enough that nearly any consumer can purchase one. They have also become so compact that they offer little encumbrance to those who carry one. Contrast the new camera technology with that used by television news outlets for the past sixty years. Even ten years ago, to own a camera which recorded studio quality video would cost thousands of dollars and weigh twenty pounds. A cameraman covering a story was often hampered by their cumbersome equipment, and the price created a barrier which few individual consumers could afford.
New, easy to use photo and video editing software has also provided a great boost to the citizen journalist, allowing for immediate consolidation and publication of their media.

The other major technological advance which has opens the door to the new media paradigm is the availability of mobile internet. Wireless hotspots and high speed mobile internet have rendered the satellite news truck a dinosaur. Fast, efficient internet allows for immediate upload of new photos, videos, livestreams, social media posts or blog posts. There is no longer the disconnect between filming an event, editing it in a studio, and then feeding it to the public. A journalist now only needs a camera, laptop and internet access to upload a story and immediately share it with interested parties around the world.

At first, I was skeptical of Twitter. Having used Facebook, MySpace, Hi5 and dozens of other social networking sites, I was already sick to death of social media by the time Twitter exploded. However, after looking into it further, I realized that Twitter has the potential to be the most useful social networking platform yet developed. While Facebook feeds our inherent narcissism and desires for social interaction and acceptance, Twitter is a tool to mobilize the masses.

Twitter first caught my attention in the aftermath of the tornado in my hometown of Joplin. Traditional media outlets were overwhelmed and slow to respond in the first few hours. There was simply too much devastation and chaos to consolidate information for a news cast. I was desperately seeking information about the tornado's path, how large it had been, and if friends and family were in danger. After seeing nothing but the same clips replayed over and over again by the channels who already had teams on the ground, I went to Twitter to fill in the gaps. Instead of filling in the gaps, Twitter provided nearly the whole story. I was immediately able to access photos from Joplin residents, able to assess the path of the tornado, confirm the safety of friends with Twitter accounts, and receive the most up-to-date information the moment it broke.

The journalistic potential for anyone in the thick of a news-worthy situation to send a tweet which can be easily searched, referenced and shared is immense. Photos can be seen by millions in five minutes, videos can be linked and shared, the vast echo chamber can amplify one tweet to a thousand tweets in seconds. Twitter can break a story hours before the first journalist even catches a whiff of it, and provide a constant stream of updates at little to no cost for both the producer and consumer of the news. (Of course, we have seen instances where Twitter has been suspended, this is a dangerous precedent which serves to remind us that the system is not without flaws.) The worldwide protests we have witnessed in the past couple of years have been built and cultivated thanks to Twitter, and there is good reason to believe that the future success of such movements will benefit even more from the service as the user-base grows.

Another hallmark of the new media paradigm ushered forth by the Occupy movement was the coming-of-age of the Livestream. I spent the majority of my time in Zuccotti volunteering in the media and communications tent in the center of the park where the livestreams were based. A 24 hour news network was built and operated from underneath a tarp in the middle of a park in Manhattan. Subsequent livestreams were put up and operated from multiple Occupy protests all over the country, it allowed for communication among groups and maintained the feeling of solidarity among participants all over the world. Livestreams allow for continuous, alternative coverage of events by anyone with a channel, internet connection and camera. It levels the playing field with television news networks and offers a huge potential for exposure and less (or more) biased reporting. All this is done with a very small investment. A service which was once only available to networks with corporate backing or a significant budget for equipment is now open for all. Livestreams streamline (no pun intended) the broadcast of the news, without the need for an entire news studio to churn out a story.

I believe that all these things and many more are the characteristics of a new media paradigm. It is currently in its infancy, but growing at a immense rate. Each new development only speeds up the eventual downfall of the traditional media system. Newspapers and magazines are already under immense pressure. They are moving away from print and focusing on online publication. Cable and network news programs are under fire from all sides for being bias, corrupt, stupid and sensationalist (after all, their advertisers mean more to them than their viewers). Their flaws are so deep that The Daily Show and Colbert Report have made a living skewering their credibility and providing just as much (if not more) news in the process. My former professors at the University of Missouri may not see it, the current media titans can probably sense it but don't believe it, the public is slowly waking up to it, the few which have seen it know it, but there is a new media paradigm on the horizon; and hopefully it can remain a pure, free system of raw information which allows the people to live free from information asymmetries if they so desire.

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I write in an editorial style, if you have any contentions, suggestions or refutations of my words, I welcome them.

Thank you for the overwhelming response to my first diary.  It was an incomplete introduction into the eye opening novel "The Money Changers" (1908) by Upton Sinclair. In this diary I shall expand on some of my observations in the last diary, and highlight some more interesting passages from the book which are still enormously relevant today. In particular, I believe we can retrofit some of Sinclair's observations of the 1907 financial crisis to help provide context for our current financial mess and election year rhetoric.

It is quite ironic that JP Morgan Chase is currently in the news for conducting risky market speculations, when a century ago, the proprietor of the firm was conducting the same risky practices, resulting in the same ends. Why is it that after all this time, we are still letting the greedy pigs get away with it?!

In the first diary I highlighted an interaction between the protagonist and a young capitalist in which they discuss the implications of businessmen taking over politics to further the interests of capital. In this diary I shall highlight two more passages that are relevant to our current election cycle and provide insight into the fundamental outlook of the corporate political agenda.

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Every so often, a student of history will stumble across something so profound and prescient that kicks them in the head with the force of a bull, and serves as a brutal reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Last night, I was rummaging through my family's vast collection of books while house-sitting. The collection is stored in a bomb shelter that has since been converted into a dirty, musty library in my parent's basement. I was searching for something interesting to pass the evening reading, and a fragile, yellow paperback called "The Money Changers" caught my eye. It wasn't the title which grabbed my attention, but the name of the author, written in small bold ink at the bottom of the spine, "Sinclair."

I was only familiar with Upton Sinclair's work through second-hand references. His famous work, "The Jungle" is one of the most influential works of fiction in the 20th century. It led directly to the creation of the FDA and helped usher in the life-saving safety regulations so many of us take for granted in the United States today. (Much to the chagrin of our political opponents.)

"The Money Changers," however, I was unfamiliar with. Written in 1908, it is a fictionalized chronicle of the 1907 financial panic. The panic which led directly to the implementation of the Federal Reserve system and helped set the wheels in motion for WWI. Told from the point of view of a New York socialite, it leads the reader through the personal lives and back-room dealings of the one-percent and how their rampant speculation, over-leveraging, corrupting political influence and elitist worldview brought forth pain and misery upon the people.

The I picked the book up at around 11, and didn't set it down again until 5:30 this morning. Unable to stop reading, passage after passage gnawed at my stomach as I realized that they could have just as easily been written four years ago instead of one hundred and four years ago. Some passages were so prescient to our political and financial climate today that I had to copy them down to share with others who understand that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The purpose of this diary is to share a few of those passages and expand on their implications today. Also, I encourage all those who haven't read "The Money Changers" to read a copy if you have the time.  I am writing it just as much for my own future reference as I am the DKos community, so I apologize if this diary gets a bit lengthy and muddled. After all, it is now 6:30am and I haven't yet slept, so please forgive any mistakes I may make.

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Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 08:12 PM PST

A calling to Kansas City Kossaks!

by sprint1745

A calling to all Kossaks who reside in or around the Kansas City area! I have begun a new group to act as a rally point for all news or activity in the KC area. It is my hope that the page can become a hub for discussion, calls to action, volunteerism, GOTV, news, and everything else relating to our little corner in the middle of nowhere!

The groups name is Kansas City Kossaks, so if you are interested, follow the group and hopefully it can become a force for good in an area that could desperately use a more liberal touch. In an enormously important election year, not just at the top of the ticket, but through every state-house and city hall, we need to be organized to make a difference.

Even if you aren't from the area, but you have something constructive to add, please share it.

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Cheers from across the pond!

I am currently in London visiting some friends and looking for a job. This afternoon, instead of laying around the flat feeling sorry for myself, or playing ultimate frisbee in Hyde park, I decided to have some fun and partake in some civil disobedience in downtown London...

This afternoon there was a mass protest against proposed changes to the United Kingdom’s National Health System (NHS). The object of the protest was to block all traffic on the Westminster Bridge (the one next to Big Ben and Parliament) for five hours, demanding that the House of Lords vote down a bill that takes the first steps in turning the NHS into a private, market based, for-profit system. The bill is the brainchild of the Tories (conservatives) who currently lead a coalition government with the (spineless) Liberal Democrats. It was written and passed under the guise of cutting waste and modernizing the NHS system, which is (supposedly) hemorrhaging money and requires spending cuts to keep it operational (where have we heard that before?).

As a visitor to the UK, I am no expert on the nuts and bolts of the bill or the mechanics of the NHS. In fact, I learned about the entire fiasco just a few days ago after reading a poster outside the neighborhood food co-op. The buzz on the street is that the bill will allow hospitals to be sold to private corporations, the staff put on private payrolls and beds given over to private patients. While this is nothing new to those of us with a navy blue passport, this is a big deal in a country where free, socialized healthcare has been available since the end of World War II. Instead of getting into the gritty details, here is a well written post on the Guardian’s website with a summary of the bill and some of its possible ramifications.

To hear about the protest, follow me below the fold...

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Mon May 23, 2011 at 03:13 PM PDT

Joplin, MO Devastated by a Tornado.

by sprint1745

I am from Joplin, I study at the University of Missouri right now. If I hadn't been in summer school then there was a good chance I would have been in Joplin...The images I see are heartbreaking. I see pictures of houses I've slept in, restaurants I've eaten in, places I've worked, places I learned and roads I've driven a thousand times. They all hold unique memories for me, which spring to mind every time I return home. But now? There is little left but broken trees and snapped 2x4s...Joplin will never be the same.

The tornado literally cut the city in half, running six miles from the westernmost part of the city through a small suburb called Duquense on the far east side. For perspective, Joplin has numbered streets that run east-west and start in the northern end of town at 1st street, and and near my house on 50th street. The tornado pretty much ran due east between 26th and 15th street and erased almost everything between them. It crossed all four main business causeways in town, Maiden Lane, Main, Connecticut, and Range Line. Much of the effected areas are residential, with commercial centers at the intersections of those streets. The early reports that 75% of the city was destroyed were inaccurate, but I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that 20% of the city was directly hit by the tornado, not to mention damage caused by strong winds that weren't cyclonic. Unfortunately, the 20% that was hit was obliterated.

I've seen a lot of people online asking if residents had access to basements or other safe locations.  I can only speculate, but to the best of my knowledge, many of the residential areas that were hit did not. I have been inside a number of houses in those neighborhoods and many of them were single story, ranch style homes built between the late 1950's and 1970's. Most of the older houses in Joplin have basements, as do many of the newer ones, but many of these houses were just concrete foundations with some timber and drywall stacked on top, then garnished with some vinyl siding or faux brick. Definitely not the ideal place to ride out a strong tornado. Also, the part of town that got hit is almost completely flat. If the tornado had struck further north or south there would have been more natural barriers to protect people.

Thankfully, my close friends and family are all unharmed and accounted for, and my family was lucky that our home was spared; my aunt and uncle weren't so lucky, their house was in the middle of the tornado's path. I have heard harrowing accounts from friends who barely escaped with their lives. My roomate's brother left his apartment and took shelter under a concrete stairwell just seconds before the tornado hit, his entire apartment complex was leveled. Many of the other tenets weren't as lucky as he was. He was in shock as he recanted the story. His soul is his sole possession.

I am frantically trying to find out about those I knew who lived in the red zone, but cell phone service is spotty and landlines are toast. I'll be monitoring the situation until I can go home and help with the cleanup on Thursday. I plan on loading up on whatever supplies are most needed and bringing as much support to my hometown as I can. If anyone lives in the Columbia area, and would like to donate goods, contact me and I will pack as much as my car can hold. I'm worried though, tis the stormy season and Joplin could easily get hit again in the next week. In an ironic twist, many Joplin locals have always nervously joked about watching tornadoes hit all the small towns around it, but being spared in the city...I suppose we were due.

I will try to update the diary and respond to any questions about Joplin in the comments. I am a little disappointed in the DKos community right now, after similar disasters there were multiple diaries providing news updates or avenues for donation to charities operating in the disaster zone. We all share a love/hate relationship with politics, but in an absence of any meaningful political news, I feel like this story deserves more attention. I suppose this time the ball is in my court, since it is my town that has been devastated...however, I am not well versed in setting up a donation page or organizing other online means of providing aid and support. If someone could nudge me in the right direction, I would be very thankful.

It will be dark in a couple of hours and I fear that many are still trapped in the rubble. After another stormy day that hindered search and rescue efforts today, I am morbidly awaiting the press releases that inch the death toll higher. This is only the beginning of a long, painful recovery.

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Thu Apr 14, 2011 at 12:39 PM PDT

My letter to Apple

by sprint1745

My nearly brand new iPod "tough" (touch) broke this morning while in class. While initially upset, I knew the problem was easily solvable since I have seen parades of cracked and broken ipod and iphone screens over the past few years. Upon returning home and calling apple, I found out that they charge an outrageous fee to conduct the repair. One which I know must be common because of the sheer volume of Apple i** products in the market.  Dejected and pissed off I wrote this letter to display my disgust with their policy and the flimsy construction of their device. Enjoy.

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Sun Feb 20, 2011 at 01:18 AM PST

A brief musing on farm subsidies...

by sprint1745

Perhaps it is time to reconsider farm subsidies? Paying large farms vast sums of money not to grow crops seems counterproductive when commodity prices are rising to all time highs.

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Tue Dec 07, 2010 at 10:56 PM PST

My unsubscription letter...

by sprint1745

I wish this weren't my first diary entry here on DKos. I have been an avid reader for four years now. I find that it is one of the best places on the internet to find relevant political news, well written opinion pieces, some good rants, and some generally informed people. Comments and diaries here have always seemed to have a degree of respect that is sorely lacking on the internet. It is relatively free of blatant racism, inexcusable ignorance, and loony conspiracy theories (although I do enjoy a good conspiracy at times) which makes it a breath of fresh air compared to most other sites. (Although in the last few months the discourse here has disappointed me, come on, we are mostly all on the same side!)

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