My project just got turned down by the Knight Foundation.
It’s not really surprising, but its too bad, because I think it was a good idea.
In 1988, I spent a month living in Jabalya, a Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Just me and my video camera – and a family. It was my first “VJ” experience, and it convinced me that this was a better way to do television journalism than dragging around a crew. The work I produced aired on MacNeil/Lehrer.
A few years later I was hired by the PBC, the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, to build a VJ-driven station in Ramallah. It’s one of the projects I don’t talk too much about. Six weeks after we started, Arafat closed it down. It wasn’t because of the small cameras, however. My Palestinian journalists took their training about journalism a bit too seriously and went after the Palestinian Authority and corruption. No more TV after that.
Before I got into the TV business I had been in a PhD program (never completed) in Islamic History. My Arabic is no longer so good, but I can still ‘bis’millah with NY taxi drivers, much to their bemusement.
My whole belief is that young Palestinian kids don’t strap explosives to themselves and walk into Israeli cafes to set themselves off because they are protesting Israeli coffee (which is particularly bad). They do it because they are incredibly frustrated and they want to draw attention to the really awful conditions in Gaza.
It’s a crappy way to get attention.
But maybe the solution is not to wall them in, but rather to give them video cameras, teach them to use them, so that they can show the world what is pissing them off so much that they are willing to blow themselves up. (After all, isn’t this the basis of the First Amendment? Free speech, no matter what?)
My idea then was to find 25 or so young Palestinians in Gaza who I would then so empower and train – and train them to make coherent reports on their conditions and situation that anyone could understand – and then to use some of the Foundation money to buy a half hour, once a week, on Israeli television, to air their work. To force a dialogue. To give them an equal field – at least on TV.
It was, I think, an interesting idea. A kind of ‘Citizen News’, but not the kind you would expect to see, or maybe even want to see – but one that you probably should see.
The Foundation did not agree – which is too bad.
They rejected the proposal – but I don’t think it was because of the small cameras, at least.