Citizen Journalism Brought to Germany
'Reader's Edition': New web site modeled on OhmyNews
Email Article  Print Article Ronda Hauben (netizen2)    
Reader's Edition, created in the spring of 2006, is an example of a developing citizen journalism platform that is currently part of the German language online newspaper Netzeitung. The content of Netzeitung and Reader's Edition, are different though they have links readers can follow from one to the other. While a regular staff creates Netzeitung, the readers of Reader's Edition as volunteers determine the subject matter and content by the articles they submit. Thus the content of Reader's Edition reflects the readers' interests and the issues they deem important to cover.

Peter Schink, who was the Netzeitung project manager in charge of the creation of Reader's Edition, started the project in March 2006. He explains that he built the model for his project following the idea of OhmyNews. Since the German media landscape is different from that in South Korea, however, Schink adapted the model so it would be "a little bit different." Also, since there was little money for the project, he had to rely on modifications of the free software program Wordpress to do the technical development.

Schink explains that, working along with one programmer and one designer, he created the German language citizen journalism site after only 2-1/2 months of work. His goal was "to design a platform which looks a bit like a printed newspaper." It was important, he emphasizes, that "every participant get the idea that it is not a forum or weblog but 'a newspaper'."

While Reader's Edition was in development, Schink traveled around Germany giving lectures at universities and at the "webmondays" being held in various cities in Germany. Webmondays are informal gatherings to bring together those interested in developing web 2.0 applications.

In his travels, Schink says that he met many "open-minded students, who really supported the idea of citizen journalism." From the interested people he met, he found 10 volunteers who were willing to serve as editors for the new online newspaper. Called moderators, these volunteers are the interface between the articles submitted by readers and the process by which these articles are chosen, prepared, and placed on the Reader's Edition web page.

Before the official opening of the Reader's Edition site, Schink collected email addresses of interested people whom he encouraged to explore the site. "Some of them were bloggers," Schink writes, "and as you can imagine, they really liked to play around with the site."

Though the majority of the editorial work and articles are contributed by volunteers to Reader's Edition, the parent newspaper, Netzeitung, has been providing technical and other forms of support. Recently, however, the editor-in-chief of Netzeitung, Michael Maier, has informed those participating in Reader's Edition that they will have to become self-supporting. Maier has hired a business consultant, Hugo Martin, to take Reader's Edition into what is being called Phase 2. Martin is proposing that Reader's Edition become a community platform for NGO's and others who want to have access to publishing tools and are willing to pay a fee for this access.

There have been concerns raised in the Reader's Edition online forum about the changes being proposed and that such changes are being carried out just a few months after the online introduction of the citizen journalism project. One reader proposed that a two or three year period of time is needed to see how such a project will develop, rather than making substantial changes after only six months in operation.

Netzeitung, the parent newspaper, however, is undergoing changes in its ownership structure. Started in 2000 by a Norwegian online newspaper company, Nettsvision.com, Netzeitung has already seen a number of changes in its ownership structure. Recently, the current owner, Orkla Media, sold the rest of its media empire to a British media corporation, the Mecom Group, headed by British media figure David Montgomery. Only Netzeitung and Reader's Edition remain with Orkla Media. Hence Netzeitung staff members expect that changes in the ownership and financing structure of Netzeitung are likely to follow. Despite the upcoming changes, however, Reader's Edition has already proven to its readers the promising potential of citizen journalism.

One early participant, Rolf Ehlers, describes the varied and interesting content contributed to Reader's Edition by its readers. He writes, "Reader's Edition is opening a new world of citizen participation in all political and societal questions. The readers seem to have a clever ability to maintain order, and they will need it because in the end there is no domain they won't be confronted with. When they started they found an interesting mix of contemporary issues and those that are more long term."

Ehlers concludes, "Reader's Edition is doing what I dreamed of with my web site a few years ago but which I could not then realize technically. Reader's Edition is more than a competitor to the known print media. It will bring new forms of news and views which you didn't even know existed."

2006/12/13 오전 8:03
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