We the press

Citizen sparks a media revolution


Marco Visscher | March 2005 issue

“Every citizen is a reporter.” This is the motto of the acclaimed South Korean website OhmyNews. After making a significant impact on a number of national issues in Korea, OhmyNews has expanded its operation to include an international English language site (http://english.ohmynews.com). And its simple motto may soon become the rallying cry of a media revolution, heralding a new kind of interaction between journalists and the public around the globe.

OhmyNews features news from sources journalists often dismiss as “ordinary people”. The international version of OhmyNews works with around 100 “civilian journalists”— the plan is to increase this number to 1,000 by year-end—who will send articles from all corners of the world to editors in Seoul. This coverage spans a variety of subjects from headline news like the tsunami in Asia to personal reflections about a visit to Nepal. Visitors to the site can respond to articles in a special section appearing just below each item.

The idea may sound just like a weblog, but there are differences. A weblog is the personal diary of one individual, while OhmyNews is guided by an editorial staff. The five-year-old South Korean edition of the website (www.ohmynews.com) uses 35,000 civilians. The editors evaluate and edit stories that are submitted, as well as writing their own stories. And while a weblog reflects the preferences of its creator, OhmyNews represents a far broader collection of views.

The civilian journalists with OhmyNews are paid $2-20 dollars (U.S.) for each contribution, depending on the value assigned to the story by readers—and readers can even give the writer a tip. But money is not what motivates most of those writing for OhmyNews. Rather, it is a desire to supplement the view of the world reported in mainstream media with information and ideas from their own experience.

The Independent Media Center (www.indymedia.org), which grew out of the protests at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999, offers another example of citizen-based journalism. Under the motto “Don’t hate the media, be the media,” Indymedia activists have created an alternative window on the world. Because mainstream media coverage of activist events too often concentrate on negative incidents like broken windows, Indymedia is a way for activists to get their side of the story heard. The idea has now spread to many places around the world.

Yet OhmyNews differs from Indymedia projects because it doesn’t promote any particular political agenda. Critics of the website—and there are plenty of them in South Korea, particularly in conservative circles—question that supposed lack of political agenda. They point out that the site played a large role in the 2003 presidential elections where the reform-minded Roh Moo Hyun was the unexpected winner, despite having received very little media attention—except from OhmyNews. But in the run-up to the elections OhmyNews actually did little other than publish reports on its website from civilian journalists and their readers, two groups that drew heavily upon 20 to 30-year-olds who want to shake up the established order.

OhmyNews turns a profit from its South Korean website, which is a rarity for a news site on the internet. Asia Times (25 November 2004) reports that three years after it was founded, the site broke even and that its monthly revenues from advertising now total around $500,000 (U.S.). The monthly profit totals some $ 27,000. Seventy percent of the income comes from advertising, the rest is generated by supplying content to other websites and donations.

And now OhYeon-ho, the founder of OhmyNews, is setting up similar sites in other countries. However, a venture in Japan, dubbed JanJan (www.janjan.jp), can hardly be called a success, Oh admits in an interview. It may be that OhmyNews is so successful in South Korea due to the country’s homogeneous population and the fact that seventy-five percent of households have access to high-speed internet: two important factors in putting civilian journalism on the map that are not present in most countries.

And yet OhmyNews continues to show promise for revolutionizing journalism. At least according to Dan Gillmor, an American technology journalist, in his recent book We the Media (http://wethemedia.oreilly.com). “Big Media,” Gillmor writes, “treated the news as lecture. We told you what the news was. You bought it, or you didn’t. You might write us a letter; we might print it. (If we were television and you complained, we ignored you entirely, unless the complaint arrived on a libel lawyer’s letterhead.) Or you cancelled your subscription or stopped watching our shows. It was a world that bred complacency and arrogance on our part. It was a gravy train while it lasted, but it was unsustainable.”

Solution News Source

We the press

Citizen sparks a media revolution


Marco Visscher | March 2005 issue

“Every citizen is a reporter.” This is the motto of the acclaimed South Korean website OhmyNews. After making a significant impact on a number of national issues in Korea, OhmyNews has expanded its operation to include an international English language site (http://english.ohmynews.com). And its simple motto may soon become the rallying cry of a media revolution, heralding a new kind of interaction between journalists and the public around the globe.

OhmyNews features news from sources journalists often dismiss as “ordinary people”. The international version of OhmyNews works with around 100 “civilian journalists”— the plan is to increase this number to 1,000 by year-end—who will send articles from all corners of the world to editors in Seoul. This coverage spans a variety of subjects from headline news like the tsunami in Asia to personal reflections about a visit to Nepal. Visitors to the site can respond to articles in a special section appearing just below each item.

The idea may sound just like a weblog, but there are differences. A weblog is the personal diary of one individual, while OhmyNews is guided by an editorial staff. The five-year-old South Korean edition of the website (www.ohmynews.com) uses 35,000 civilians. The editors evaluate and edit stories that are submitted, as well as writing their own stories. And while a weblog reflects the preferences of its creator, OhmyNews represents a far broader collection of views.

The civilian journalists with OhmyNews are paid $2-20 dollars (U.S.) for each contribution, depending on the value assigned to the story by readers—and readers can even give the writer a tip. But money is not what motivates most of those writing for OhmyNews. Rather, it is a desire to supplement the view of the world reported in mainstream media with information and ideas from their own experience.

The Independent Media Center (www.indymedia.org), which grew out of the protests at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999, offers another example of citizen-based journalism. Under the motto “Don’t hate the media, be the media,” Indymedia activists have created an alternative window on the world. Because mainstream media coverage of activist events too often concentrate on negative incidents like broken windows, Indymedia is a way for activists to get their side of the story heard. The idea has now spread to many places around the world.

Yet OhmyNews differs from Indymedia projects because it doesn’t promote any particular political agenda. Critics of the website—and there are plenty of them in South Korea, particularly in conservative circles—question that supposed lack of political agenda. They point out that the site played a large role in the 2003 presidential elections where the reform-minded Roh Moo Hyun was the unexpected winner, despite having received very little media attention—except from OhmyNews. But in the run-up to the elections OhmyNews actually did little other than publish reports on its website from civilian journalists and their readers, two groups that drew heavily upon 20 to 30-year-olds who want to shake up the established order.

OhmyNews turns a profit from its South Korean website, which is a rarity for a news site on the internet. Asia Times (25 November 2004) reports that three years after it was founded, the site broke even and that its monthly revenues from advertising now total around $500,000 (U.S.). The monthly profit totals some $ 27,000. Seventy percent of the income comes from advertising, the rest is generated by supplying content to other websites and donations.

And now OhYeon-ho, the founder of OhmyNews, is setting up similar sites in other countries. However, a venture in Japan, dubbed JanJan (www.janjan.jp), can hardly be called a success, Oh admits in an interview. It may be that OhmyNews is so successful in South Korea due to the country’s homogeneous population and the fact that seventy-five percent of households have access to high-speed internet: two important factors in putting civilian journalism on the map that are not present in most countries.

And yet OhmyNews continues to show promise for revolutionizing journalism. At least according to Dan Gillmor, an American technology journalist, in his recent book We the Media (http://wethemedia.oreilly.com). “Big Media,” Gillmor writes, “treated the news as lecture. We told you what the news was. You bought it, or you didn’t. You might write us a letter; we might print it. (If we were television and you complained, we ignored you entirely, unless the complaint arrived on a libel lawyer’s letterhead.) Or you cancelled your subscription or stopped watching our shows. It was a world that bred complacency and arrogance on our part. It was a gravy train while it lasted, but it was unsustainable.”

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