Citizen Reporter in the City of Lights
Could citizen journalism be the answer to the decline of the French press?
Email Article  Print Article Pierre Joo (pierre_joo)    
I became an OhmyNews citizen reporter one early evening of spring 2005 after a day of work at my office. It was something I had not really planned. My first introduction to OhmyNews International occurred a few weeks earlier while I was doing some research on the Cyworld phenomenon in Korea.

After all the searching I conducted, the most helpful source of information I found was an Ohmynews article: a testimony of someone who actually is a Cyworld addict. Indeed, what could be more accurate and insightful? The OhmyNews’ baseline "Every Citizen is a Reporter" immediately made sense to me.

I also felt that I had things to say, opinions to express, thoughts to share, and ideas that could be of some interest to others. As I was born in France of Korean descent, my first article was about how China, Korea and Japan could learn from European nations managing to overcome centuries of animosity.

One year and 15 articles later, which were either praised by approving comments, or challenged by criticisms, my motivation and belief in citizen journalism grew stronger. This new form of reporting is not a replacement of journalism as a whole, but a precious complement providing opinions or informative reports that would not be available otherwise.

Could OhmyNews replicate its success in my home country France? The challenge would be more difficult. Although France lags behind Korea in comparing the size of Korea's Internet culture, broadband connections and turning to the Web for news is now also commonplace in France. But citizen journalism is about becoming an active participant and writing articles, not just remaining a silent reader. In this field, French citizens would show less enthusiasm.

Yet, French people do like to express themselves and state their opinion, even a little too much sometimes. In fact, the French education philosophy is about teaching students to reflect on their thoughts and state their opinion. While Korean students spend their time dealing with multiple-choice question tests, their French counterparts are fed four-hour essay exams.

Koreans have grasped OhmyNews as a much needed forum of expression and a welcomed progressive voice in the midst of an extremely conservative Korean media. The French already enjoy many outlets of expression and media ranging from the far left to the far right.

The French press may be diverse, but they are on the decline. In 58 years, from 1946 to 2004, French daily newspaper circulation figures were divided by three. Moreover, statistics from 2003 show that the number of circulating daily newspapers per thousand adults are 647 for Japan, 339 for the U.K., 318 for the Netherlands, 263 for the U.S... and 167 for France.

Among the nation's industries, French newspapers are one of the most heavily subsidized with more than $300 million of public aid. Yet, Le Monde, Le Figaro, Liberation have all reported operating losses in 2005, and expected to do so this year.

Today, these three newspapers are tied to powerful shareholders whose concern for profitability may be stronger than their concern for journalism integrity. The media and defense group Lagardere is a major shareholder of Le Monde; Le Figaro belongs to the Aeronautics and defense group Dassault, headed by industry mogul, French member of parliament and Chirac’s close ally, Serge Dassault; The Liberation’s main shareholder is Edouard de Rothschild, member of the prominent Rothschild banking family.

Of course, France’s tradition of freedom of the press ensures editorial independence of these famous newspapers, but nothing can be taken for granted. A few weeks ago, Liberation founder and CEO Serge July was forced out of the newspaper by Edouard de Rothschild.

The French press cannot eternally blame the Internet or the boom of free newspapers such as Metro for all of its troubles. All western countries have to face these two challenges and all are doing better than France. Today, French newspapers need to find a solution to stop drifting away from the public’s concerns and interests, especially the younger generations, as the average French newspaper reader is 57 years old.

Maybe part of the answer will come from participatory media.

2006/06/26 오전 8:19
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