The Fact That Changed Everything: Jon Vidar and Tiziano Project

From the smartphones we hold in our hands to the hybrid cars we commute in every day, the world has seen an unprecedented rise in technology and connectivity. Yet, in a world where YouTube reaches more than 800 million unique users per month, 42 million people in the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes with nary a blip in our collective radars.

Seeing the imbalance of media attention on human justice issues, Andrew McGregor, Jon Vidar and Thomas Rippe, photojournalism students from the University of Southern California, were inspired to do something to rebalance the scale. They co-founded the Tiziano Project to share voices that may otherwise be heard.

Named after intrepid veteran foreign correspondent Tiziano Terzani, the Tiziano Project focuses on empowering the voices of people living in conflict and post-conflict communities participate in the world dialogue by teaching them new media skills.

“We had a sense that with YouTube, journalism is going to change. The importance of a Western journalist parachuting into a community, living there for two months and reporting on the conflict wasn’t going to have the same value as the local community perspective,” recalls Vidar, now Executive Director and the most active of all the founders.

The Tiziano Project was first a scrappy affair funded by student loans and credit cards. It was only after running programs in Rwanda, Kenya, Congo and Somalia that the project hit its stride by winning a $25,000 Chase Community Giving grant in 2009 to run a three-month journalism program in Kurdistan.

Kurds clamored to bring the Tiziano Project to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. “Hundreds of Kurds voted for us,” says Victoria Fine, Director of Programming. “We had a man in London who we call the miracle Kurd. He was calling people in villages all around Iraq explaining in Kurdish how to sign up for Facebook and vote because people wanted it so badly.”



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