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Media entrepreneurs brainstorm ways to create social change through technology

Kris Krug explained how he keeps his work fresh.

“All bets are off. The [old media] models have changed. The whole industry is in disarray,” photographer and social technology expert Kris Krug said at Remixology Vancouver!, a discussion panel last night on future directions in journalism. 

VO attended the event at W2 Storyeum as part of a new monthly series presented by Fresh Media, bringing together the city’s brightest new media innovators, including The Tyee, Beyond Robson, Granville Magazine, Vancouver is Awesome as well as Vancouver’s punk music photography pioneer Bev Davies. Remixology Vancouver! was “spurred by the growing energy around how we engage with modern technology, art and media.” Last night’s event featured a talk by Krug, followed by a discussion moderated by The Vancouver Sun’s Dig Life columnist Gillian Shaw. 

Krug, who shared his experiences reporting on the BP oil spill, explored the idea of promoting social change through new media. “Do something with your despair,” he said.

“I went to the gulf during a media blackout,” Krug told the packed audience. “They were attempting to show clean beaches but from horizon to horizon all you could see was oil."

Krug’s photos told a different story, one that BP didn’t want to be exposed. Soon activists began to use his work to spread their cause. “These photos were a seed around which communities could coalesce.”

Thanks to the lightening speed with which content buzzes around on the internet, his photos were soon picked up by the National Geographic and CNN. Krug’s willingness to go beyond the boundaries of traditional media earned him a spot on the Arctic Sunrise, a boat operated by Greenpeace, where he will document the efforts of Greenpeace scientists to provide their own safety assessments of the waters in the Gulf.

Krug’s successes in the world of new media and evident passion for his work resonated with the audience, who wanted to know more about the nitty gritty of how to make it as an activist journalist in today’s rapidly changing media landscape. 

“Privacy shouldn’t be your biggest fear,” Krug said. “The funnest thing is when some other video artist mashes together my stuff. A lot of people are afraid [about privacy issues]. The more I give away, the more opportunities I have.”

“It’s about continuing to build an ad-hoc movement [in order to promote change]. I believe in empowerment through technology.”

While the audience got into the discussion in real time, everything was being documented through Twitter. Event organizers had set up a projector so that tweets could be seen as they were updated, adding a meta level to the conversation. 

Gillian Shaw and Kris Krug.

At one point the discussion turned to the practicalities of pursuing a journalism career at a time when there are no longer many steady jobs in media.

“How do you support your kids? How do you feed your dog?” asked one audience member, who has worked as a photographer for years. 

“It’s confusing for a lot of people,” acknowledged Krug, “Think of yourself as a media company. You have to come with a story and an audience.” 

“It’s a hussle. I buy the plane ticket, I call National Geographic. If I have two months of rent I can go on the road and turn up the volume on these issues.” 

While Krug’s business plan may only work for the very adventurous, he has supported himself through a variety of projects, including teaching at Emily Carr. 

“It’s a reputation economy,” said David Beers, founding editor of The Tyee, who spoke briefly at the event. It’s through the internet, through platforms like Twitter, that people are able to build up their reputations and find work. 

“You have to have expertise. You have to know a lot of boring stuff so that you can know when the next incremental shift in the story is,” said Beers. 

Another long-time photographer asked about the need for quality in photography and writing on the internet.

“I don’t care if you do good stuff or bad stuff...I just want you to do it. The best stuff will rise to the top,” said Krug. 

Audience members answered his call when they had the chance to discuss their own projects, ranging from Gen Why Media Project, which promotes social activism among young people, to EVOLVE LOVE, a documentary about climate change. 

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