04/7/10 - 3:01pm
by Chas Danner

Getting It Right : Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman, reporting this morning on the Obama administration’s decision to approve the targeting (for assassination) of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who is a key figure in the Yemeni faction of Al Qaeda:

We at least have the right to know the legal basis the Obama administration reached to order the extra-judicial killing of an American citizen, and so I’ll be spending my morning filling out FOIAs.

(emphasis mine)

Immediate boring paperwork, sometimes an essential part of getting it right.

Getting It Right will be a reoccurring segment on MT featuring examples of good journalism and creative non-fiction

07/10/09 - 7:10pm
by Chas Danner

Poem for the Rooftops Suite

Lost in the 24 hour struggle to launch The Rooftop Project was the news that I had finished the first and final Poem for the Rooftops of Iran by YouTube user Oldouz84. I titled it Defenseless People. While it is already featured as the June 16th entry on The Rooftop Project, here it is again by itself so it gets the extra special attention it deserves. As with the June 20th video, I had the help of several Farsi speakers who’s translations I have woven together. Below the jump are the other two “Poems” so that all three are now viewable together for the first time. Also, you should know that “Oldouz84″ did not write these in advance but rather invented them spontaneously in the moment each time, something I find remarkable.

Three weeks ago I’m embarrassed to admit I could not have pointed to Tehran on a map. Now I have mastered highly focused YouTube searches in written Farsi and yesterday even got the point where I took issue with the New York Times for doubting the date of a video I had uploaded. (Like a geometry proof, I cited location, crowd makeup, and careful analysis of hundreds of other videos)

Since June 18th when I opened my YouTube account, my uploaded videos have received a combined 468,554 views. Most of these clips I found in other places and converted to YouTube so they would easier for Nico @ HuffPo to share. Almost all of them show terrible violence that I feel absolutely no pride in associating myself with. But of the footage to make it out from Iran, and I have seen almost all of it, I believe these “Poems” are the most important. Violence may have an easier time capturing our attention, but art is always more powerful at providing the resonance we need to understand and remember. These three videos capture the beating heart of this moment in Iran, and I feel truly fortunate to have been able to play any small part in making sure they are more fully seen.

7/12 UPDATE: There is a fourth video from June 22nd! Coming soon!!

THERE'S MORE…..click.here…………

07/5/09 - 11:24pm
by Chas Danner

Attention Must Be Paid

Roger’s Cohen’s A Journalist’s ‘Actual Responsibility’ is probably the best and most personal editorial he will write in his career. It is also a piece every writer needs to read, especially if they believe in journalism or seek to wrangle non-fiction to effect the ideas and lives of others. Writers like me.

Maybe I’m biased because I believed what he says before he said it, or because I care so deeply about the Iran story, but while we all complain about Old Vs New Media, or worry about WaPo’s salons, or consider what some idiot like Glenn Beck thinks about *anything*…  Here is Roger Cohen, old school, wielding the full potential of his ability as a journalist and writer to say as forcefully as he can: “bear witness.”

Watch for the use of this sentence: You cannot carve in rotten wood. which is one of many that as a reader stopped me cold – its perfect clarity and placement humming like a solemn bell. I already liked Cohen, I already thought what he was doing in the way he has covered Iran was downright heroic, as far as a writer can be heroic, but this is beyond all that. I won’t quote anymore, as it just needs to be read as it is – but I can give no better endorsement than to say that this piece is exactly why I want to be a writer.

**The original post was based on the fact that this column was not appearing in Sunday’s US New York Times, I see now that it in fact is appearing, only on Monday not Sunday, thus the edit**