How Others See Us

Here’s an interesting piece written by UW Journalism senior William Kim about us:

Hanson Hosein, his wife, Heather Hughes, and dog, Miles, went on a 55-day road trip all across America to film “Independent America.”

It’s a documentary which has been shown on the Sundance channel about their search for the “mom and pop” business voice as big-box retailers continue to grow and make smaller retail establishments obsolete.

Hosein and Hughes filmed, edited and produced the film completely independently, in a sense making them the “mom and pop” of journalism.

Now the director of the Masters in Communications in Digital Media program at the University of Washington, Hosein teaches what he believes is the next stage for journalism and for the media as a whole.

“He sees the future of media as a much more free, decentralized world,” said Adriana Gil Miner, one of Hosein’s students.

Gil Miner, like Hosein, had her professional start in New York. She worked in marketing for American Express for 5 years before coming to Seattle to redevelop her understanding of digital media.

Both had come to realize that the traditional, corporate-controlled, centralized media is failing and coming in its place is the revolution of user-generated content.

Last autumn, Hosein taught his first course at the UW called “Selling the Message: The Business of User-Generated Content.”

At a large corporation with many levels of management and production, Gil Miner and Hosein were discontent from the lack of closeness and creative control over their projects.

That explains why Hosein left his well-paying post as NBC’s Middle-East news producer in 2001 to work at what was basically an entry-level position at the CBC in a small town in Canada.

“Last thing I wanted to be was Kent Brockman from the Simpsons,” said Hosein at the Canadian Association of Journalists Conference in 2004. “For me, moving to Kelowna for the CBC was like going back to school to try and find another way of practicing journalism.”

“Another way of practicing journalism” turned out to be this idea of solo journalism: “Get a camera, go shoot it, edit it and produce it yourself,” said Hosein in a recent interview. “Why not?”

This is exactly what is spurring on the recent proliferation of online videos on websites like Youtube, as media amateurs can and do reach millions of people across the internet realm with their creations.

Hosein started off trying to learn how to generate his own user content when he left NBC seven years, four years before Youtube was founded.

“He is an innovator, well beyond the bell curve of innovators. He is way in the front. He is the person to recognize the shift 10 years ago,” said Mark Shea, a 53-year-old student of Hosein’s digital media program and Microsoft employee for seven years.

So what’s Hosein innovating now?

He is focused on teaching his class, “Multimedia Storytelling,” in which all the students use the inexpensive Flip video cameras as a way to understand the consequences of the amateur content and to show that compelling digital narratives can be created on a low budget.

Looking to the future, Hosein hopes to apply these ideas to teach non-profit companies and NGOs how to make media productions on a small budget instead of making the films for them.

Kind of like the old Chinese proverb about teaching a man to fish, right?

Actually, “It’s a better business model than competing with all the other producers out there doing the same thing,” said Hosein.

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