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Happy Birthday to OhmyNews
OhmyNews celebrates its 6th anniversary on February 22
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2006-02-21 17:28 (KST)   
OhmyNews was founded as a publication to pioneer a new form of journalism, a form of journalism appropriate for the 21st century. The first official issue of OhmyNews was fittingly published online on 2.22.2000.

As a citizen journalist who writes for OhmyNews, I want to offer some thoughts on this its 6th birthday.

While the international edition of OhmyNews is published in English, and is therefore accessible to an international community, the Korean language edition is the model and significant achievement of OhmyNews and its founders.

The best compliment I can offer to OhmyNews is that I would like to be part of an American OhmyNews. Though there are a number of online Web sites developing in the U.S. which offer means for user participation, none yet offer the significant characteristic of OhmyNews, which is its welcoming and support of citizen reporters, or what I prefer to refer to as netizen journalists. (1)

What then is different about OhmyNews that makes it a place that not only claims to welcome netizen participation, but also demonstrates the achievement?

When articles are submitted to the international edition, they are most often promptly given the needed attention by editors and appear on the front page or in an appropriate section of OhmyNews.

The attractive layout often includes a graphic provided by the OhmyNews staff, and presents the articles in a way that invites that they be read -- or at least that the short excerpt introducing most articles be considered.

Serious articles about current events written by netizen journalists are assigned to an appropriate section. Similarly there are sections for other categories of articles, such as technology related articles, movie reviews, articles about Korean events and so forth. One can then refer to these sections to read the articles even when they are no longer on the front page.

But most important is the fact that OhmyNews actively welcomes submissions, and even pays a small fee for submissions, a fee that is raised when possible. In this way, OhmyNews recognizes the work and effort of citizen reporters to make their contributions and there is at least a minimal payment for that effort.

Though the articles in the international edition do not receive the larger number of comments that articles in the Korean edition receive, articles in the international edition do sometimes receive comments, comments which express either appreciation for the articles or disagreement. Such comments are welcome feedback to the citizen reporter.

A special highlight of the international and Korean citizen reporter experience has been the chance to attend the annual forum in Seoul and to meet each other and the staff and CEO of OhmyNews.

As a citizen from the U.S., it has been very difficult to see the atrocities being carried out by the U.S. government, with so little chance to make an impact on the way the U.S. press covers these events. For example, the U.S. press is responsible for the deceptive news reports that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. These reports were used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

More recently, the U.S. government is spending billions of dollars a year occupying Iraq, where U.S. military and Iraqi opposition and civilians, and journalists from all nationalities, are being killed or wounded.

Similarly the U.S. government has committed acts of torture and has created what amount to a concentration-type prison camp on the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay.

While there is opposition among the progressive strata in the U.S., and substantial sections of the U.S. population, to these actions of the government, there is no mainstream or alternative press that is open for citizen reporters. So diverse voices who want to challenge these activities have no place to be heard.

One example, perhaps, is the radio program, "Democracy Now" which also celebrates a birthday this week, its 10th birthday since its founding in 1996. (2) This hour long radio or cable TV program often features discussion and commentary challenging the activities of the U.S. government. But the program is the creation and activity of mainly one person, Amy Goodman. While she does worthwhile reporting herself, her program is not a place that is open to others who may not be part of the set of people she knows or invites onto her show.

So while she and her program emanate from New York City where I live, there is little opportunity for those in New York to be able to contribute to the content of what is included in her program. (3)

In order to effectively challenge the problems that exist in the U.S., there needs to be an inclusive, not exclusive, participatory media form. As Nguyen Ngoc Trung, a citizen reporter from Hanoi, explained when I met him in Seoul during the citizen reporters' forum in June 2005, the health of a nation depends on the health of its press. Unless there is an honest press that accurately portrays the conditions and activities in the country, the people have no way to know or influence the problems and developments that take place.

OhmyNews has pioneered an online media form that is open and that citizen reporters can help to mold. This is a contribution not only to the country from which each citizen reporter comes, but also to the world, though many may not yet recognize this broader social effect.

More and more our world is a global world with the need to learn about what is happening in all parts of the world, in order to understand how developments in one part of the globe will affect one's own country and life. Similarly, there is a need to understand how what is happening in one's own country and life can affect the larger world.

This is why the concept of netizen journalism becomes so important. The netizen is a citizen of a broader community, rather than being limited to the nation state where one lives or works.(4)

As netizen journalist efforts spread and examples of online newspapers like OhmyNews develop in various countries around the world, it will become more and more possible to have honest and accurate reporting that can offer a challenge to inaccurate and deceptive press reports. Netizen journalists are those who write with a social perspective rather than a perspective limited by commercial objectives.

I want to extend my congratulations to OhmyNews CEO, Oh Yeon Ho, OMNI Editor-in-Chief, Hong Eun Taek, OMNI Editor Todd Thacker, and the rest of the staff on this the 6th anniversary of the creation of OhmyNews.
1) See for example, What will be the model for a more participatory news?

(2) See Democracy Now

(3) This reporter had an experience with Democracy Now several years ago, trying to find a way to suggest that the show cover an important story. Despite trying to call or write the program, there was, at the time, no way to propose that an important issue merited coverage. Telephone calls were answered by saying one had to send email. Email messages were returned with the information that the mailbox was overflowing.

(4) See for example, The Emergence of the Netizens
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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