Citizen Journalists Rule – In Asia

3

Over the weekend we went to a meeting of people interested
in contributing to an alternative media web site called "Exploit
Boston!
",
envisioned to be a sort of facilitator for and aggregator of writing
by a group of "citizen journalists"
covering the local beat. We can’t say we have taken much to the name,
being accustomed to battle exploitation in all its nefarious forms, but
the idea has some merit.

Numerous interesting possibilities were discussed, including covering
local politics and arts, designing a logo and paper organization in order
to facilitate getting credentials and press passes, sharing cameras and
recording equipment, the mechanics of recording, editing and hosting streaming
video. Just the kind of thing we were considering in "Why we need video
aggregators
".

An interesting project, and worth keeping an eye on. Concurrently, we
have been researching the world’s first Digital Democracy – South Korea.  There,
a site called OhmyNews has revolutionized media and politics, provided a
viable technical and financial model for "Citizen Journalism", become the
number 1 news source in the country, and been held primarily responsible
for electing the current President, Roh Moo-hyu.

What is OhMyNews? "With OhmyNews, we wanted to say goodbye to 20th-century
journalism where people only saw things through the eyes of the mainstream,
conservative media," said editor and founder, Oh Yeon-ho. "Our
main concept is every citizen can be a reporter. We put everything
out there and people judge the truth for themselves."

When Oh started the site three years ago he had three volunteer collaborators
– today the site has a paid staff of 40 editors and reporters.  They
collectively post about 200 stories a day, generating a virtually constant
output of stories and updates.  How? Via their network of over 26,000
registered "Citizen Journalists" who contribute stories and get paid for
those which are published.

And people are paying attention. OhmyNews is getting an average of 2 MILLION
readers a day. 100 times more than Glenn Reynolds. But not more than the
top citizen reporters in this country could generate, if they were organized
like this. We modestly suggested something along those lines in our posting The
Bloggers Consortium
. However, even the Dowbrigade never dared dream
of power like this:

The Guardian newspaper called OhmyNews "arguably the world’s most
domestically powerful news site."

"OhmyNews is as influential as any newspaper," a South Korean diplomat
told the paper. "No policy maker can afford to ignore it. South Korea
is changing in ways that we cannot believe ourselves."

The
attitude sounds exactly like what we seem to be groping towards here in
our local cyber cells and emerging organizations:

Calling itself a "news guerilla organization" — and adopting
the motto, "Every Citizen is a Reporter" — OhmyNews has
become a wild, inconsistent, unpredictable blend of the Drudge Report,
Slashdot
and a traditional, but partisan, newspaper.

OhmyNews tends to be anticorporate, antigovernment and anti-American. Stories
are often subjective, oozing with emotion and odd personal tidbits. But they
also can be passionate, detailed and knowledgeably written. The site covers everything
a traditional newspaper covers — from sports to international politics — but
does it with heaps of personality.

"It’s entertaining, it’s heartfelt and it’s caring," said Don Park,
a Korean-American reader who said he visits OhmyNews daily. "It’s like
blogs. It has a personal side and an emotional side. It has human texture.
It’s not
bland and objective like traditional news. There’s a definite bias. It’s
not professional, but you get the facts. I trust it."

Of course, one of the essential elements of making it work is getting
access to the newsmakers. Here, the value of belonging to an organization,
as opposed to working for a corporation, come into play. Would American
politicians ever give bloggers and citizen journalists equal access? Not
this years crop, that’s for sure. South Koreans, however, seem to have
found their One.

OhmyNews reporters are given access to government ministries and public
institutions, putting them on level footing with professional reporters.
Top officials increasingly give OhmyNews journalists exclusive interviews,
a precedent set by President Roh, who gave his first postelection interview
to OhmyNews — a startling snub of the country’s established media.

The site warns contributors that they bear sole responsibility for whatever
they post. Copyright is shared between the site and the reporter, who
is free to republish the material elsewhere.The pay ranges from nothing
to
about $16, depending on how a story is ranked
by the editors — "basic," "bonus" or "special."

All stories are fact-checked and edited (that’s what the 40 full-time
employees do). They have an English
language version.
  Check it out.

quotes from Wired Online

OhmyNews in English

 

3 Comments

  1. Rebecca M.

    March 2, 2004 @ 4:00 pm

    1

    So is anybody out there planning to start an American ohmynews?? We need one badly. There’s a business model.

  2. Luke Francl

    March 2, 2004 @ 4:55 pm

    2

    Rusty Foster of Kuro5hin and Matt from MetaFilter were going to start an American OhMyNews, but it never got off the ground. I assume “life” interfered.

    Here’s a link about it.

    http://www.emptybottle.org/glass/2003/05/ohmynews_bah.php

  3. Dan Gillmor

    March 2, 2004 @ 6:25 pm

    3

    Not all stories are fact-checked in OhmyNews. Consider the numbers of reader-written pieces and the size of the staff, which does a lot of its own reported/edited material. At least that’s what they told me when I was there last year when I wrote about the publication, which I agree is pathbreaking.

    http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/5889390.htm

    I’m not sure the business model would work here, but I’d like to see someone try. But community sites like iBrattleboro in Vermont are doing interesting stuff along these lines:

    http://www.ibrattleboro.com/