Saturday, September 24, 2005

Ohmy: The Real "Citizens' Band"

Today's San Francisco Chronicle reports on the growing popularity of OhmyNews, a Seoul-based online newspaper which runs stories submitted by thousands of "citizen reporters" in South Korea and around the world. Submissions are vetted by Ohmy's tiny staff of 54 editors, researchers, and professional reporters. Articles selected for publication (about 2/3 of all submissions) earn their author between $2 and $20 for each story used. Once published, articles featured on Ohmy's site each have their own message board for discussion. Articles well received by the public can even earn their author monetary tips from site readers.

Ohmy seems to me to be an unbelievably simple but terrific idea. This is blogging at its best. Isn't Ohmy essentially a huge group blog tamed by professional fact-checking? And what better way to engage the public in the news than by having the public set the agenda of the newspaper? "Every citizen is a reporter," is Ohmy's slogan, and by extension, an avid consumer of news. The results speak for themselves--Ohmy's average daily readership of 2 million far exceeds popular American blogs like DailyKos and Instapundit.

I think this kind of thing would be incredibly popular if implemented here in the United States because it would provide an avenue for young people to get involved. Certainly there are many young people in this country who have a lot to say but who don't have a means of getting their message across. Nearly three-quarters of Ohmy's citizen reporters are under 40, and a full 20% are college students.

None of this is to suggest that organizations like Ohmy can replace traditional media outfits, where the professional journalists who do their job for a living have far more resources available to them to cover stories as they occur. Most of the stories that get reported in Ohmy rely on stories that the professional media has already covered. Nonetheless, I see organizations like Ohmy as perfect vehicles to heighten public interest in news and current events, and encourage dialogue about the leading issues of the day. The goal of a true "Citizens' Band" is not to compete with the professional media, but to supplement it through the active engagement of the general public.

See related: OhmyNews (English edition)

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