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Citizen Reporters in Their Own Words-7
A Korean Middle-aged Woman Becomes a Reporter
Kim Hye Won (jean)     Print Article 
Published 2005-06-28 12:29 (KST)   
A homemaker, Ms. Kim mostly writes essays and musings on her daily life.

Hello. I셫 Kim Hye Won, a reporter for Korea셲 OhmyNews.

It셲 an honor to participate in the International Citizen Reporters Forum. I셫 glad to meet you all. And I welcome you all sincerely.

Last month, I was asked by an OhmyNews editor to speak at the International Citizen Reporters Forum. I thankfully accepted in no small part to the memory I have of receiving the 쏞itizen Reporter of the Year Award earlier this year. At the time, as if I had a premonition of today, I said that I would become a housewife-citizen reporter that makes her way into the world. Because of that, my standing here would be keeping that vow. Because I didn셳 expect that I셝 be keeping that promise so soon, I셫 extremely nervous. If I slip up during my address, I셝 thank you for your generous understanding.

I셫 a common citizen reporter who has laughed and cried with OhmyNews for the last three years. I셫 escaping from my narrow framework as a housewife and communicating with the wider world as one citizen. It셲 an honor and very moving.

I셫 a traditional Korean housewife who lives together with a husband, two children and an 86-year-old mother-in-law. I first learned of OhmyNews three years ago at the height of the Korean election craze. In their political news, the media was talking about this unfamiliar media known as OhmyNews. I logged on out of curiosity, but at that time, OhmyNews was a paper that just dealt with politics.

But as I continued to log on, I noticed unique articles you couldn셳 find in any other newspaper. These were the 쏬ife Stories. Through these stories, I heard tales of flowers as told by a countryside pastor, a new farmer셲 return to the soil, a father worrying about his child셲 education, and a daughter taking care of her senile mother. They were stories of our neighbors, like those any of us could meet around us.

One day, I -- who had been just a reader -- found something to write. Worried because my adolescent son was fighting with his father, I thought it might be good to listen to the advice of readers who have had similar experiences. So I wrote my first story, 쏡addy셲 Depressed, Son셲 Taking Tests, And I셫 Worried.

I still can셳 forget my first article with the name 쏫im Hye Won attached to it. As soon as I saw my article on OhmyNews, my heart fluttered. A housewife who for the last 18 years has been caught up in housework and raising her children had now become a reporter. This was possible because of the OhmyNews spirit of 쏣very citizen is a reporter.

For the last three years, I셶e been writing an article a week. Everything that occurs around me has become article material.

I will introduce a couple of them that remain in memory. 쏮oney Chest of Love was the story of my mother-in-law셲 family expense book, which I secretly spied a glance at while she was gone. I spied a glance at it behind her back, but by conveying the warm love for her children that was contained in that expense book, I received emails from many netizens who were moved.

쏧 Donated Blood to See a Movie for Free was the story of my son, who borrowed his school senior셲 citizen ID number to donate blood so he could get a free movie ticket. As the story coincided with news of problems in the nation셲 blood supply, which was a social problem at the time, the story also became a hot issue. Another story of mine dealt with the problems of disposing food waste from individual homes, something I experienced as I moved from an apartment to a house. Perhaps by coincidence, a food waste disposal can appeared before my house not long after the article was written, so I remember being quite elated. It was as if it was because of my article.

I also feel limitations as a citizen reporter. This is because I lack professionalism compared to professional reporters who majored in particular areas or have accumulated tons of experience. Perhaps because of this, I also hear that my articles lack breadth and depth. There are also times when articles I struggled to write never see the light of day because they lack grounds or material. I feel ashamed and hurt when this happens.

I셫 also afraid of the critical comments posted below the article and malicious replies. Frankly, there were many times I considered quitting when I first started out as a citizen journalist because I was afraid of malicious comments. But now that I think about it, I feel those setbacks and hardships are an important part in cultivating citizen reporters. I want to thank all those readers who left bad comments on my stories.

It wasn셳 easy to cover stories on my own or ask for interviews. The problem was that I couldn셳 confidently introduce myself as a journalist. That could also be a strength, however. This is because I worked toward the most sincere interviews possible with a little more humility and more courtesy than a professional reporter.

Rather than say I셫 a reporter, I prefer to just listen to the concerns of friends as if I were talking with neighbors. Doing so, I sometimes forget I셫 doing an interview and get lost in the conversation, crying, getting off topic, and exchanging jokes. That셲 possible because I셫 a citizen, not a reporter. It might seem a little immature, but a person who can comfortably speak her mind is a citizen reporter. This is the difference between a professional reporter and a citizen reporter, and the strong point of the citizen reporter.

Acting as a citizen reporter, I셶e experienced many changes personally. I셶e gotten offers to do serial columns for major newspapers, and requests to take material from my pieces and appear on radio or TV. It also seems that other media are interested in how articles written by professional housewives like me and spark on and offline controversy.

Standing here, I again feel a great responsibility as a citizen reporter. I still don셳 know what the media is, or what makes a report. I just vividly convey the voice of the people. The readers who have encouraged and scolded my articles, written by a green citizen reporter, are simultaneously my biggest fear and greatest strength. In the future, I will work with the people as a citizen reporter who listens to their stories from the position of a citizen and from the point of view of a citizen. Lastly, I want to encourage and give a hand to the countless citizen reporters who write the precious stories of their neighbors, regardless of how small. Thank you.
©2005 OhmyNews

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