October 24th, 2012

The Future of PINAC is Here … and You can be Part of It 0

By Carlos Miller

After sifting through hundreds of WordPress themes over several weeks and not finding anything I liked, I pulled out a paper, pen and ruler and drew up the site the way I envisioned, using the best elements from a combination of available themes and corporate media sites that I had come across in my search.

It was a rather crude sketch made up of stick figures and squiggly lines representing cops and copy but I scanned it into my computer nonetheless and emailed it to PINAC reader Pascal Scheepers in the Netherlands, who runs a web development company named Splotches and had offered to help me in my transition as a way to support the cause.

Scheepers passed the sketch along to Splotches designer Andrew Leung who compiled three variations and sent them back to me. I quickly settled on this one because he took what I had envisioned and expanded upon it.

This is how Leung, who is based in the United Kingdom, explained it in an email:

I incorporated crack textures to represent the cracks in the image of upstanding authority. For the header I stuck to what you had envisioned, a red colour, centred text, logo on the left. In the background you can see text repeating along which takes inspiration from police cordon tape, saying “Police line do not take photos”.

Leung’s addition of the police cordon tape is absolutely brilliant and will define PINAC for years to come.

The most obvious change is the use of PINAC as the main title of the blog instead of the traditional Photography is Not a Crime.  And that is mostly for brevity and branding purposes but also because I don’t want to be pigeonholed into only writing about camera-related incidents as they tried to do to me over at Pixiq.

But camera-related incidents will always be the core topic of this site. And it’s pronounced PIN-ak.

The main domain will be photographyisnotacrime.com for the first time in the site’s history but it can still be accessed through carlosmiller.com as it has been from the beginning when photographyisnotacrime.com was being squatted on by somebody who never did anything with it.

And for the first time, you will be able to access the site through pinac.org, which is what will be published on the new business cards I will eventually make.

And before I go any further, let me just thank Dave Van Rood and Eddie Lange who spent days trying to get this site back online.

Dave is an old-school PINAC reader. You may know him better as Genewitch. He’s been around from the beginning. I met him for the first time in person last month in Orange County.

Eddie is a South Florida techie. We’ve partied hard before and he has always been supportive of the blog.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this without their help.

So let’s get down to business.

Constitutional Gang Bang

My idea behind the design was to incorporate the new PINAC logo in the header but not give up on the traditional header photo of the five Miami cops who arrested me in 2007.

After all, it was from that Constitutional gang bang on a street renowned for prostitution that PINAC was conceived; a blustery night in February that would change my life forever.

Five cops. Nine misdemeanors. Sixteen hours in the county jail. Not to mention scrapes and bruises all over my body, including a welt on my forehead from where the cops bashed it into the sidewalk while ordering me to “stop resisting.”

All because I stood up for my right to photograph them.

I’ve since learned this is routine police protocol when making arrests. I’ve learned that from posting countless videos on my blog from across the country of people who were clearly not resisting.

I’ve learned to say “I’m not resisting” as I did when police arrested me a third time for recording them in January 2012, even though they still threatened me with violence and deleted my footage, which I later recovered.

I’ve learned a lot over these last five-and-a-half years, including how to write an appeal that would reverse a conviction after a biased judge allowed improper evidence against me in court, specifically, this very blog.

And I’ve learned that I am just not cut out for the corporate media, no matter how you cut it. Whether it’s the Arizona Republic or NBC Miami or Barnes and Noble, they all eventually tire of my controversial style, even though they welcome it in the beginning.

That is why I am going to do all I can to make this site as independent and economically viable as possible. Whether it’s through advertising, sponsorships, donations, t-shirt sales or speaking engagements, I will remain in full editorial control of this blog as long as it exists.

Or until they pay me enough to relinquish it, which I don’t see happening anytime soon.

This is not only the most significant development in history of the blog, but the most challenging move of my journalistic career, which sprouted at the age of 16 when I was entertainment editor of my high school newspaper and continued for the next 28 years where I’ve done everything from write freelance travel pieces from Europe to writing for daily newspapers in the Southwest, including juggling three beats for a tiny tabloid in a small border town in New Mexico as well as covering the police beat for a major metropolitan in Arizona.

I’ve paid my dues and have the battle scars to prove it, but I’m prepared to continue paying them in order for PINAC to emerge as one of the most respected news sites in the United States.

Besides continuing to provide quality content, my ultimate goal is to turn this site into a highly interactive community for readers as well as a vital educational resource for citizens wishing to learn about their fundamental rights.

But I need your help in doing that. This is no longer about me but about all of us. This is about the cause. About the right to record cops in public. About the right to hold public officials accountable.

Maybe it was never about me, except for those times when I find myself incarcerated and on trial for having the gall to not back down from cops while recording, but that is what started it all. That blustery night on Biscayne Blvd.

This will be a work in progress. I will be making minor changes, adjustments and additions over the next few weeks, but this is pretty much the new format for PINAC.

Eventually, we will add a Reddit-like forum in the top right-hand column where readers can submit links to stories we should cover, voting them up or down in order of interest and importance with the ability to comment on these stories.

And if things go as planned, the news feed on the left-hand column where I’ve included feeds from CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, the New York Times and the Associated Press will be dedicated to organizations and lawyers wishing to see their content on this site in exchange for an annual sponsorship.

This will be a journalistic experiment at a time when so many journalistic experiments are failing, so there will probably be trial and errors along the way.

But we’ve managed to come this far when most blogs don’t last a year, so we have the momentum.

New Writers

The biggest change around here will be the addition of new writers. I’ve been in contact with several of you who are already working on stories and I hope to bring in new writers.

Unfortunately, there’s no pay in it, but I’m hoping that will eventually change.

I plan on working with writers in crafting articles as well as coaching them in reporting these articles. I miss the daily brainstorming sessions of my newspaper days, so I want to bring that to this site by encouraging readers to find the stories in their own backyards.

I will still be doing the day-to-day grind of stories I’ve always done, so I’m looking for writers to produce enterprising stories they can take their time in writing, preferably on subjects they are interested in.

I will also assign stories that I have kept on the back-burner with the intent of writing them, but never getting around to doing so.

I will be expanding on the topics slightly to include all forms of police accountability and First Amendment issues, but also include more technology pieces, specifically on how it pertains to our Constitutional rights, whether it is a simple review of a body-mounted camera or an analysis on governmental monitoring.

I also plan to cover issues in New Media as I did in the Gawker-Reddit piece as well as focus more on citizen journalism education because that is also part of New Media.

While PINAC may not be the most objective site, our agenda is very obvious, after all;  it will be one of the most transparent and accurate news sites on the internet. And it will always strive to maintain a sense of fairness.

I would like to see readers reach out to their local police departments and ask them to create a photo policy that I would post on a special page with photo policies from other departments around the country categorized by state and agency, which will make it easy for readers to download and carry around when shooting in those jurisdictions.

This would make it easier to hold police accountable when they interact with citizens with cameras. I would like to get hundreds of police departments across the country to agree to do this, but I can only do this with your help.

Mickey Osterreicher of the National Press Photographer Association would provide the legal guidance in helping the police departments draft these policies, but you guys can get the ball rolling.

We will also be focusing more on public records education from different states, so if you have experience in obtaining and fighting for public records in your state, feel free to share your expertise with us.

Readers interested in writing for PINAC should send me an email at carlosmiller@magiccitymedia.com with the subject heading “PINAC Writer.”

Making Money

I wasn’t exactly disappointed nor surprised when Pixiq decided not to renew my contract, but it did kill a significant source of my income. I have regular clients for whom I do photo and video work, but it’s never consistent, so the monthly checks from Pixiq provided a certain security, even if just allowed me to live month to month.

But now I’m scrambling to make up and hopefully surpass the amount I was making at Pixiq with the launch of the PINAC NATION merchandise line.

This venture will be separate from PINAC in that will have its own website and identity in the hopes that it will develop a following outside the blog. The merchandise with be high-quality, cutting-edge and stylish with a strong message about our rights as citizens. I will offer enough options and styles to appeal to all ages and tastes.

I will launch the business hopefully within the next three weeks with the introduction of three t-shirt designs as well as a baseball cap. The three designs include the one above as well as the two below.

The first two were designed by Miami artist GWIZ aka Jorge Viera. The third was designed by Miami graphic designer Christen Pacheco. Please give me your honest feedback on the designs.

I then plan to introduce a new design every month and eventually expand on the merchandise to include other products.

Once I launch the merchandise site, I will advertise it from this site in a permanent house ad at the top of the fold. And I will hold monthly photo contests for t-shirt giveaways to build on that interactivity I mentioned above.

Advertisement will also be part of the new PINAC. My goal is to work directly with advertisers and avoid Google AdSense because those ads are irrelevant and don’t bring in enough money.

The ads will remain as subtle and unobtrusive as possible, so I guarantee there will never be any floating ads that block the articles or those annoying ads that blast audio as soon as you click on a page.

Because I need to focus on the editorial portion of PINAC, I’m looking for experienced advertising salespersons who can sell ad space in exchange for 30 percent commission.

If you are interested, email me at carlosmiller@magiccitymedia.com with the subject heading “PINAC Ad Salesperson.”

As I mentioned above, I am also seeking sponsorships from organizations and attorneys that produce content of relevance to our readers.

PINAC was averaging between 200,000 to 550,000 page views a month at Pixiq, including 223,000 unique views last September, so it is a good opportunity for these sponsors to get their message out to a relevant audience. My goal is to average a million page views by the end of 2013, which is why it would be wise for interested sponsors to lock in a deal now.

I will also start promoting myself to do speaking engagements in exchange for honorariums. I’ve spoken countless times on various panels in Miami about the right to record police over the years as well as on panels in New Hampshire, Georgia and Missouri and I always get a great response, so I want to expand on that.

And I will continue asking for donations from readers, this time not just for my legal defense fund but for maintaining the site.

I not only have to pay for the design of the site and the designs of the t-shirts, I will be saddled with monthly hosting fees, but I believe this is all going to be a wise investment.

My goal is to become financially viable to the point where I can pay contributors, something so many news sites have struggled to do, so it will be an uphill battle, but it is not impossible.

I’ve flirted with the idea of applying for non-profit status, even talking to a pair of attorney friends from the Citizen Media Law Project who assist in these matters, but that comes with so many hurdles that I will wait to see how it goes with my current capitalistic plans.

Besides, the IRS is making it more difficult for news sites to obtain this status, which would allow organizations to receive tax-free donations.

The problem with this model is that the organization is required to seek other revenue streams in order to become self-sufficient in case the funding dries up, but the IRS also places limitations as to what an organization can do to build revenue, which turns it into a bureaucratic Catch-22.

And even if I do get this status, I am placed at the mercy of the federal government on whether I can continue to operate, which is the last thing a journalism organization needs, especially one that strives to hold them accountable.

So my idea is to turn PINAC into a sort of journalism coop where readers maintain a sense of ownership of the site because without you guys, PINAC would have died a long time ago.

There were many times over the years when I felt burned out by the site and wanted to give it up, but you guys wouldn’t let me. And the truth is, it would have been the biggest mistake of my life.

But now that we are venturing into new territory, we will most likely be observed by more established journalism organizations who are struggling to stay afloat. Unlike certain New Media sites that have proven sustainable, I don’t have multi-million dollar investors backing me.

But I do have a diverse group of readers of all ages and sexes and political persuasions that believe in the First Amendment and the right to record police in public. And I want to build on that because an educated populace is a powerful populace.

And a powerful populace is worth more than any million dollar investor.

So let’s see where we end up in another five-and-a-half years.


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