Wednesday, March 25, 2009

American expat 'citizen journalists' in Taipei air Tibetan protest rally video on CNN's iReport program


American expat 'citizen journalists' in Taipei
air Tibetan protest rally video on CNN worldwide

by Dan Bloom
Contributing Reporter

For two Milwaukee natives from the U.S. state of Wisconsin, Taiwan has
served as a stepping stone to international fame as citizen
journalists for CNN's popular iReport news program.

Joe Seydewitz, 39,
and Michelle Senczi, 27, have been living in Taipei for the past two
years, and a recent news video they sent to CNN headquarters in
Atlanta, Georgia was picked up last month for an international new
media program .
Now the American couple are looking for more stories to send in to CNN
about life in Taiwan.

In a recent interview, Seydewitz, who has been teaching international
business at a Taipei college for the past two years, explained how the
CNN gig came about.

"Michelle and I happened upon a Free Tibet rally
near our apartment on Zhongxiao East Road in Taipei on March 14, a Saturday," Seydewitz said.
"The rally's message was directed firmly at China,
particularly Chinese President Hu Jintao. Chants included, 'Stop The
Killing' and
'Free Tibet' and what sounded like 'Who's the killer? Hu Jintao!'
Michelle was the cameraman, and I was the street reporter. We had no
idea it would eventually air on CNN, but it did."

Seydewitz added that along the route of the protest rally he spoke
with a young Tibetan man who said that since Taiwan is free of any
Chinese Communist Party control, "the rally and its
message rang loud and clear." Seydewitz added that the man "seemed
quite proud to be Tibetan, as well as pleased to have an open forum to
speak openly in."

When asked the iReport was first one for CNN, Seydewitz, said: "Yes, it
was. I watch CNN often mostly to keep-up on U.S. political and
economic news , but also for global current events. So I've watched
the iReport program on CNN several times, and was intrigued by the
possibility of doing my own story one day. I really like the format
and the endless possibilities. I sent the Tibet rally video to CNN as
my iReport in because I had the feeling, by being there in the streets
that day, that it was a serious story about an intense, globally
recognized political situatio, and I thought iReport would at least
consider using it."

Seydewitz said he has felt like a citizen journalist for several
years. "When I was living in the U.S., before coming to Taiwan, I
wrote some comedy material for a comedy group in
Chicago. I always considered myself, before this, to be an 'observer' of
people and life, and humor was my main interest. As a so-called citizen
journalist, I'm still observing things, but not exclusively to find
humor now."

When asked what was next on their plate, Seydewitz said that with the
first CNN iReport aired globally in March, he and Michelle are excited
about future
story ideas. "It's hard not to keep thinking about potential story
ideas now," he said. "I am evaluating everything that I see and think
about here in Taipei now, based on a quick assessment of its
newsworthiness for the CNN audience. I'm considering doing a video
story that relates to the global economy as seen from here in Taiwan."

Errol Barnett, a 29-year-old Briton educated in California, hosts the
iReport program on CNN. When Seydewitz was asked how CNN contacted him
and Michelle about using their video
submission for its on-air show, he said that a CNN staffer first
emailed him to confirm his identity. Later, he spoke with a CNN
producer in the U.S., he said.

"In fact, I was vetted and questioned via telephone, email and webcam
by a handful of CNN iReport staff," he told the Taipei Times. "My most
lengthy conversation was with the show's producer in Atlanta. I did
the webcam interview that aired on CNN from my home computer here in Taipei."

Seydewitz said the entire experience of working with CNN on his
iReport was "a pretty cool way to tell a story and be heard by a lot
of people around the world." He added: "The entire process was great,
from capturing the footage on the streets here in Taipei, to
communicating with CNN staff and then eventually seeing myself
actually reporting the story on television for a global audience. I am
going to keep my eyes open for anything else here in Taiwan and around
Asia that might be of interest for future iReports."


[NOTE: Michelle used a Sony Cyber Shot camera for the iReport video shown on CNN]

No comments: