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My OhmyNews Story
[Citizen Reporters in Their Own Words] Xu Zhiqiang from China
Xu Zhiqiang (xuzhiqiang)   
"Hi, China!"

A Nepalese girl student often greets me on MSN Messenger. She knows me through OhmyNews and, as you might know, "China" is not my real name.

My name is Xu Zhiqiang, just a citizen journalist from China.

Actually, I am not only a citizen journalist but also a professional journalist. The newspaper I work for is the 21st Century Business Herald, one of China's leading business newspapers.

The 21st Century Business Herald is the sister newspaper of Southern Weekend and the Southern Metropolis Daily. All three are affiliates of the Nanfang Daily Press Group, termed China셲 journalistic "West Point."

I got acquainted with OhmyNews and the concept of citizen journalism in college three years ago. But then I didn't think it would develop as formidably as it has. I thought of it as another Bulletin Board System, or BBS, because, in my opinion, BBS and internet forums are also places where anyone from anywhere in the world can put his or her ideas or news they happen to see around them.

The truth is that the BBS has retained its role as a noisy forum, but at the same time, blogs and citizen news websites are burgeoning. I heard of the English version of OhmyNews International last year and immediately registered as a member. Fortunately, I soon received the "welcome" email from [Senior Editor] Todd Thacker who told me that I was the second Chinese citizen reporter. Who the first might be, I still wonder.

To be honest, I was not enthusiastic about OhmyNews at first because of my hard routine work in China. But later, I learned from many domestic and foreign friends that since Chinese is such a complex language, a lot of valuable information written in it never sees the light of day elsewhere. In fact, foreign friends are eager to know more about happenings in China. What is more, as English instruction is popular in China and as more and more people join in gathering news and writing in English, it will become an ideal way to connect with the outside world.

After becoming a citizen reporter for OhmyNews, I have learned a lot, especially when Todd and other editors give me suggestions. They are diligent and intelligent. I feel good with them and I am lucky to have the chance to join the global news reporting family and communicate with others who have the same news interest.

It is a perfect platform to share and explore.

As far as the media situation in China is concerned, news content and publishing are strictly controlled by the government, but issuance and advertising are open to the market to some extent.

In my opinion, it will be hard for the OhmyNews model to succeed in China, because the news environment it faces is very different.

A work-around might be to focus on entertainment or sports at first. Another way would be to operate as Chinese versions of websites such as the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times, but the first thing is to get the ICP certificate.

Although the news environment is tight, the potential for citizen journalism in China is huge, especially when people express themselves by means of the Internet.

The traditional TV and newspaper media face challenging competition from the newer media like blogs, Internet forums, or e-zines. In China now, there are tens of thousands of Internet forums and forum portals where most young netizens go to browse and comment on the changing world around them. A lot of attention is attracted by these new media.

People like to express their sentiments and ideas online because there are fewer restrictions and they are safer and freer there. There is a trend for traditional media to go after the hotspots originating on the web.

One day, if citizen journalism flourishes, its backbone will consist mainly of young netizens from 17 to 35 chatting in forums and writing blogs.

A famous scientist who deceived the government and the media was exposed first by the grassroots reporting on online forums. That is one example of the power of citizen journalism.

But in many people's eyes this is just the tip of the iceberg, since the final investigation and publishing tasks were wrapped up by the traditional newspapers.

In sum, the traditional Chinese media will hang on to the key role in reportage and continue to be controlled by the government. Citizen journalism may be burgeoning but has yet to blossom, and will continue to face similar restrictions as the traditional media.

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