When you don’t consistently update your blog, it’s really freaking hard not to want to start with, “So it’s been a while!”, and then launch into all the reasons you’ve shirked your online obligations.
But I won’t start that way! And I haven’t been shirking. A quick check of my Twitter account will show my online presence is bigger than ever. Though, I owe that more to work than a diligent, personal campaign to recruit followers.
Seriously though, so much has changed! Work has really exploded. I’ve stumbled into a new role at the news station, one which really challenges me and has opened doors I never really imagined. A few months ago, our owner came to me with a story idea: investigate and report on the White Helmets.
For those of you who don’t know, the White Helmets are an organization in Syria that claim to be helping survivors of attacks in war torn areas. They have a pretty slick image in the media, and a “documentary” about them last year won an Oscar.
It wasn’t something I knew much about, and I honestly didn’t really have any opinion about them at all. But as I began investigating, it became clear that something wasn’t adding up. Digging even slightly deeper than what’s offered by most Western media outlets, you’ll find a startling expanse of inconsistencies and apparent connections to outright terrorist groups.
I worked hard for two weeks, and put my findings together into a half hour report, which can be seen here.
To say the report was well received is putting it mildly. I had an explosion of support pour in from places I’d never thought possible. It was a hit, and I had a new direction at work.
A few weeks later, another opportunity came up: investigate the murder of Seth Rich.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m not as interested in national politics, and that my heart lies overseas. There’s simply more mystery, more intrigue in the “old world”, as it were. Politics is always politics, and so I wasn’t quite as excited to dive into Seth’s case. I started my investigation with a similar attitude: I didn’t know much about the murder, and didn’t really have an opinion one way or the other.
But once again, as I started digging, enormous holes started popping up in the established story. I won’t get into details here, it’s already been hashed out ad nauseam. I complied my findings into another half-hour special, and if you’re interested in watching, here’s the link.
If I thought the White Helmet’s special was successful, I wasn’t even slightly prepared for what happened after the Seth Rich story aired. I’ve never been much for making a successful impact on social media, but practically overnight nearly 15-hundred enthusiastic people joined me on Twitter, with dozens adding me on Facebook daily. It was surreal. Clearly this was a subject that people were more than passionate about, and I had tapped into something beyond my understanding. People were hungry for more facts, they wanted their story in the spotlight.
It’s a position I never really considered being in, but I have to admit, it feels pretty good to pour yourself into something—to spend 17 hours a day working on something under a tight deadline—and then find to your immense relief that you did a good job, and that people are excited for more.
I love the work because I get to do it my way. I can be creative, and I’m rewarded for following through with things the way I think they’ll be done best. When you have ownership of a project—when you can decide when and how it gets done—it feels pretty damn good. Sure, it’s super stressful to have the success or failure of the project riding entirely on your shoulders. But I think what my life has been lacking over the last few years is a sense of creative fulfillment: yes, I have my book and my art, but those haven’t allowed me to retire to the French Riviera just yet. So to go into a job where you get to decide how something is put together, from top to bottom, and people seem to like it… that feels amazing.
To that end, I’m working on more projects for Syria.
Doing the White Helmets report showed me that Western Media is actively perverting what’s happening in that faraway land, and the people of Syria are paying the price. I’ve met loads of fascinating people—independent journalists and even US government officials—who think the US is working for the wrong side over there, and they’ve extended their friendship in a way that has totally humbled me. The tragedy unfolding in Syria is bringing together people all over the world, and as I continue to work on new reports, I’m pushing for the opportunity to travel there and, fingers crossed, perhaps even meet with President Assad.
You may have a strong reaction to Assad, and his “regime” as the media has dubbed it, but I can assure you that your reaction has been tailored by the media you’ve ingested: media designed to provoke that very reaction. Just try and have an open mind, and consider that what you know may not be the entire picture.
In any case, new directions are opening up, and I’m beyond thrilled to see pathways that could take me around the world, and give me the chance to write and report in places that most people don’t get to see; that most don’t even want to see, really.
We live on an amazing planet, and I’m ecstatic that I may get to see some of the more unusual corners.
I’ll be better about updating the site. I promise. It feels good to touch base with what’s going on, and write about things as they change. I need to be more responsible to myself in that way, and I’ll get back to finishing the travels I had last fall. I think it’s important to document that trip, especially as I prepare to take new ones.