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The Next Wave of Journalism Starts Today
Citizen reporters converge on Seoul for the 2005 OhmyNews International Forum
Todd Kipp (toddkipp)     Print Article 
Published 2005-06-22 22:34 (KST)   
It's 3:30 a.m. in Calgary, Canada and my flight to Los Angeles and then on to Seoul for the OhmyNews International Citizen Reporters' Forum is about three hours away. I'm anxious, not tired.

Many citizen reporters coming to Seoul are also anxious, but perhaps for different reasons. Truth be told, this is not my first trip to Seoul, nor is it my second or third.

Over the last nine years, this probably counts as the tenth trip and that's where my excitement arises. I know the city, the smells, the subway, the culture, the cuisine, the ever-looming conflict with North Korea and I'm energized to return.

Although no longer novel, South Korea continues changing and evolving and it's these changes within society, coupled with the familiar, that make it an interesting scene.

It's the same with journalism.

Over the last 12 years, my own journalistic experience amounts to ascending the ranks. Starting at my university newspaper, I moved on to city entertainment weeklies, national newspapers and finally international publications.

After putting my journalism on the shelf through the last 18 months, (in lieu of writing films), it took a little known, but growing citizen reported newspaper to inspire me once again.

This week's forum sets the stage for discussion and debate concerning our changing industry. With the advent of Internet, fanzines turned into e-zines and blogs. Now we're entering the next wave of journalism with citizen reporting and various reporting experiments.

Last week's now famous attempt and failure by the Los Angeles Times to run their "Wikitorial experiment" brought many questions as well as criticism and debate.

Essentially the online content experiment allowed readers to add to, delete from and freely edit an editorial about the war in Iraq. Whether or not it started to meet its initial aim of culminating in a concise and superior end product from various sources is currently unknown. Within a couple of days readers began posting excessive pornography and profanity, as well as biased information serving their own agendas, to render the experiment completely useless and a sound failure.

One blog asked: "the conceptual problem here is: What makes a newspaper-sponsored online discussion about Iraq different from, and more useful to the reader than, an online discussion about Iraq on the Usenet or any of the other zillion websites that host that kind of thing?"

Indeed. Why is it more important because a known newspaper sponsors it? Obviously the free-flow of information on the Internet worries many, especially those currently responsible for the "credited news" we receive, hence the experiment. Many, many others will follow.

Some critics assert that such mass reporting amounts to nothing more than unauthoritive, biased, amateur opinions.

Rupesh Silval, an OhmyNews citizen reporter, on the other hand, commented that in Nepal "citizen reporting has a democratic ethic and proves that by its very participatory nature, 'credible reporting is honest and accurate.'"

It's also interesting to note that Silval mentions that the "King seized total control of the nation and declared a state of emergency, saying restrictive measures were needed to quell the communist insurgency."

While true in principal, one wonders if "Wikitorials", (or Wikireporting" for that matter), are an ideal that cannot be fully realized, like communism itself.

Whether OhmyNews is interested in pursuing this style of collective citizen reporting and editing in its newspaper is yet to be seen. Many drawbacks exist, as witnessed in the recent Los Angeles Times Wikitorial experiment that failed almost immediately.

OhmyNews, while encouraging citizen reporters from around the world to report the news as they witness and react to it, still edits the content for basic style and general accuracy. While not exactly censored, it still goes through these checks to ensure they're not publishing absolute anarchic crap.

Well aware that our traditional news sources are at least somewhat corrupt, biased and often self-serving, change is long overdue. Citizen reporting is a step in the right direction. Wikitorials? We'll see.

It'll also be interesting to observe what fresh perspectives arise during the OhmyNews International Citizen Reporter's Forum 2005, since the international citizen reporters literally are from around the world, not just a few select countries.

It's baby steps, but we're walking together...
©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Todd Kipp

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