Monday, February 21, 2011

Egyptian man names child "Facebook"

"... a man in his early twenties has named his firstborn child Facebook Jamal Ibrahim ... he wanted to honor the social networking site for its role in raising awareness about escalating discontent in the country..."

Global Voices: Vadim Isakov

I had the privilege of having Vadim Isakov as a professor when he worked in the journalism department of Ithaca College. He left the college last year and now works for the United Nations, but he is also an editor for Global Voices Online. I recently interviewed him about GVO as an independent media source.

Ashley May: How did you become involved in Global Voices?

Vadim Isakov: I have been reading GVO for years. I always wanted to write for it but did not have an opportunity. A little bit more than a year ago, I saw an ad for a managing editor of a new project at GVO dedicated to Russian blogosphere. I applied and got the position.

AM: What makes Global Voices a unique, but essential part of independent media?

VI: It is truly a global community of bloggers. People from all over the world come together to write about online developments in their countries. Those bloggers can write about one event from the perspectives of many countries (like GVO posts about recent events in Egypt, for example). I cannot think of any online community that would resemble GVO in scale. And that is what makes GVO unique.

AM: What makes Global Voices a good source of news?

VI: The bloggers at GVO are people who live in their countries, speak at least two languages, know may people and actively participate in different aspects of life in their home countries. Those people are the best sources of information on what is going on in any particular country. When writing an article for GVO, people usually try to provide historical background to an event, they explain why this event is important and what it means for the future of the country. Many bloggers of GVO are not paid for what they do. People write because they are very passionate about the past, present and future of their homes.

AM: How would you like to see Global Voices improve?

VI: The GVO bloggers (like many bloggers in the world) are not journalists and they very often lack basic understanding of how an article should be written. I would like to see more GVO bloggers receiving some kind of training on how to write an interesting story. At the same time, GVO never positioned itself as a professional media outlet. It is a global community of passionate people.

AM: How do you think Global Voices attracts readers?

VI: GVO has many partner projects with different media outlets (NY Times, BBC, Guardian, Echo Moskvy (Russian radio)). GVO is very active on Twitter and Facebook. It constantly searches for new ways to promote its stories. When news happens, the GVO authors are among the first to report on it. The GVO Web site is constantly updated and the articles are written so they are easy to find via any search engine.

AM: What would you like students to know about Global Voices functioning as a form of independent media?

VI: The GVO created a community where the terms "independent" and "global" unite to create a unique online platform. It is not perfect but it tries to provide a coverage for stories that one cannot find in traditional media. It is good that some media outlets realize the need for GVO (like GVO feed on NY Times: and its extensive coverage of different topics.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Feature: Alex Dunbar

In addition to being a WSTM/WSTV news reporter, Alex Dunbar is owner, director and producer of Wind Up Films, an independent production company.

The company’s last documentary, Blanchard Road: A Murder in the Finger Lakes, centers on the murder case of Sabina Kulakowski and the man sent to prison for her death, Roy Brown.

I spoke with Dunbar about how the documentary functioned as an important piece of independent media as the case unfolded and ultimately revealed that Brown was innocent.

Ashley May: Initially, why did you decide to work on a documentary about Roy Brown’s case?

Alex Dunbar: Whether Roy was guilty or innocent…we thought the initial trial raised enough questions that it was worth pursuing and looking at both sides.

[The prosecutors] had a forensic dentist saying that Roy’s bite mark matched the bite mark pattern on Sabina Kulakowski’s wounds… The defense put an expert who said… not only does this not match, but Roy Brown is missing two of the teeth that he would need to even have a bite mark pattern close to this.

AM: How did you finance the documentary?

AD: We had offers of people who were willing to invest, but we were fortunate enough that we didn’t have to take on any investors or financial assistance. We were able to do it on our own, financially, which I thought really benefitted the story in the end.

AM: You said earlier that you wanted to keep the documentary objective. How did you do that?

AD: Neither side thought that they had our exclusive attention. They were both aware that we were actively talking to and showing the perspective of the other side.

AM: How did you think the story benefited from an independent documentary instead of a form of mainstream media?

AD: TV stories are generally limited to maybe two to four minutes at the most. Newspapers have a limitation … we could really spell out the whole story.

AM: You work in mainstream media as well as independent media. What is the role of independent media?

AD: Independent journalism can compliment mainstream journalism. It’s also a good checks and balances to have independent journalism out there to keep mainstream journalism in check so that things don’t get out of control.

*Photos courtesy of Alex Dunbar
Last summer, I worked as a broadcast reporting intern at WSTM/WSTV.

Monday, February 7, 2011

AOL is buying Huffington Post

Arianna Huffington says this is "a merger of visions" in her latest post today. What does this mean for independent media? In class, we've been discussing the HuffPost as a prime example of independent media done right. Now, the HuffPost cannot be considered independent with AOL peering over it's shoulder. I think it will be a test of the site's integrity to see if or how the news changes on

Fun fact: Arianna says in her post the merger was signed at the Superbowl.

Friday, February 4, 2011


the blogger: Ashley May is completing a journalism degree with photography and religious studies minors at Ithaca College. She is currently a freelance writer, video journalist and photographer but has also worked in print and broadcast newsrooms.

the blog: This blog will focus on selected areas of independent media to compliment a class taught by Jeff Cohen at IC.

the purpose: This blog will give readers a sense of what other kinds of news media are available apart from the mainstream and show how independent media is an important part of news today.

*If you are interested in downloading the syllabus for the Independent Media class, click here.