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Exporting Citizen Journalism
Sites in Denmark and Israel demonstrate that OhmyNews model is spreading
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2006-07-14 18:36 (KST)   
The OhmyNews Forum 2006 session describing how citizen journalism has spread to Denmark and Israel was an important contribution to the 2006 forum. Erik Larsen who founded and is CEO of Flix.dk in Denmark and Michael Weiss who founded Scoop.co.il in Israel presented fascinating descriptions of the online news sites they have begun in their respective countries.

Erik Larsen
©2006 OhmyNews
Flix.dk began in 2003 before there was an English version of OhmyNews. Larsen described how he read an article about OhmyNews in 2003 and had to go to someone who could translate the Korean so he could learn as much as possible about OhmyNews in its Korean edition. Flix.dk was launched in November 2003 from a small computer in Larsen's apartment using open-source software. At first he worked with two colleagues to provide the management and friends, family, and colleagues contributed the articles. For the first year, in addition to stories from others, the three editors would write "a column a day focusing on some unconventional news story or taking a deeper look at news and media culture in general," Larsen explained.

The goal for Larsen and his colleagues was to create a site for citizen reporting that would be based on sound journalistic practices and user-created content and the sharing of knowledge. Their hope was that this would lead to having better information available to people and that the articles and discussion would help people to change their view of the world to have a more accurate view and ultimately more democracy.

Flix.dk thus far has been a non-profit model. Larsen realizes that he needs additional funding as it grows but that there is a need to be careful about what the sources of funds are, as certain sources of funding can be very detrimental to the ability to have a democratic media. He refers to examples of how certain forms of funding ended up destroying the newspapers they were supposed to support, as described in the book Market Driven Journalism by John McManus.

Larsen described how certain articles in Flix.dk provided breakthroughs in spreading knowledge of and gaining contributors for the online newspaper. One such case was the "Keld Bach-case" in Spring 2004 where a Danish blogger was threatened by some lawyers and told he had to remove some links on his blog or he would be liable for a large amount of money. The lawyers, in threatening the blogger, were violating his rights, and the coverage of the story on Flix.dk led to live radio show coverage, so that the lawyers had to publicly apologize to the blogger.

Larsen told of the difficulty of finding funds to help Flix.dk grow, but that the site is appreciated by the Danish public and contributors. Given the crisis he outlined in the Danish media environment, there is a serious need for Flix.dk.

Scoop.co.il came into operation after the last OhmyNews Forum. Weiss began his talk with the statement that "it is tempting to think that money runs the world." Instead, however, he explained that the real fuel is vision. He hopes that Scoop will be a tool for making change.

In his talk, Weiss described how he recruited citizen reporters by sending invitations to those bloggers and others online whom he felt would make a valuable contribution to Scoop.co.il. Also he described how there are rewards for doing a certain number of stories but that citizen reporters receive no payment for their articles.

The funding for Scoop.co.il initially came from an Israeli venture capitalist. Citizen reporters who want to sign up to write are put through a screening process, and have an initial phone conversation with an editor.

Weiss also hopes to soon start an English language section of Scoop.co.il. There are many contributors from diverse sections of Israeli society for stories for Scoop.co.il.

These two presentations were a highlight of the 2006 OMNI forum. They are concrete embodiments showing that the model provided by OhmyNews Korea can lead to different variations and can be established in other countries and in other languages. These examples of other working citizen journalism sites raise the hope that by next year's OhmyNews forum, there will not only be many more citizen reporters but also several more examples of online sites inspired by the model that OhmyNews Korea is pioneering.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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