Happy 10th Birthday to OhmyNews
Creating a 21st Century Form of Journalism
Email Article  Print Article Ronda Hauben (netizen2)    
I want to take this occasion of the 10th anniversary of OhmyNews to congratulate Mr. Oh Yeon Ho, the founder and CEO of OhmyNews and its present and former staff members who have contributed to the creation and development of an important new institutional form in the field of journalism.

In his original plans for the creation of OhmyNews, Mr. Oh spoke about the need for a 21st century form of journalism, and about the desire to pioneer such a journalism. (1) OhmyNews has been exploring how to create a form of journalism that builds on the open processes of the Internet and the contributions of netizens. Important to Mr. Oh when he began OhmyNews was whether the quality of journalism determined the media environment. He wanted to counter where the power and wealth of a media organization would determine the impact a news article would have.

This is a critical issue for journalism. All too often, as Mr. Oh and other journalists have found, the important news stories are limited in their ability to gain adequate coverage because of the politics of the news organizations that have the monopoly on the resources to investigate, write and spread the story.

Fortunately, the nature of the Internet is such that it makes it possible for a news media with comparatively few resources to dig for the facts underlying the events of our time and get the hidden story out into the world.

As a featured writer for OhmyNews, I have found that it has been possible to probe for the underlying forces at work in a situation and write the story based on the facts that are often hidden from most mainstream news organizations.

For example, in trying to understand what was the motive for certain US actions of hostility toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), I came across a blog that referred to testimony to the US Congress by a former US government official. The former official explained that the US government’s blacklisting of a small bank in Macao where the DPRK kept some of its funds, the Banco Delta Asia, was intended as a warning to large Chinese banks. The US government action was politically motivated rather than the result of some illegal action on the part of the Banco Delta Asia or the DPRK. Other sources that could be found on the Internet helped to verify this as the motive of the US government actions against the small bank in Macao.(2)

It seemed such a story was important but would not get much attention. This assumption soon proved to be erroneous. A reporter with another media organization wrote saying she saw my article and wanted to know my references from the Internet to verify if the story was accurate. After supplying her with the references, she asked me for an interview to understand the issues involved. As this was happening the problem that the article I wrote referred to, was resolved. There is no way to know if the attention given to my story was helpful in resolving the problem it referred to, but the fact that it gained the attention of other media demonstrated that Mr. Oh’s effort to provide the needed support for important stories had proven successful in this case.

There have been many other experiences which demonstrate to me that OhmyNews has gained a worldwide reputation as a pioneer in the field of 21st century journalism. As a featured writer who covers the United Nations, I have found that OhmyNews has made its mark on the Korean political landscape. For example, when I met Ban Ki-moon, the first day he was in his position as Secretary General of the United Nations, I mentioned OhmyNews. He said that he knew OhmyNews as he had been interviewed for OhmyNews when he was the Foreign Minister in South Korea. Similarly, when I met Christopher Hill, who had been the US Ambassador to South Korea and then the US government envoy to the Six Party Talks, I mentioned OhmyNews. He told me that he knew OhmyNews. He mentioned the situation where OhmyNews journalists had taken photos of his unannounced visit to Mangwol-dong cemetery in Gwangju where the heroes of the 1980 Gwangju massacre are buried. Photos of Hill’s visit to the cemetery went out over the wire services in South Korea. He was the first US official to visit the cemetery. South Koreans I have spoken to said that his visit was appreciated as a form of official US government recognition of the Gwangju massacre. His visit to the cemetery had not been publicized, but two journalists in Gwangju, including one who wrote for OhmyNews, guessed that Hill was planning to visit the cemetery, and got there in time to photograph him as he made his unannounced visit.

There are many other important stories OhmyNews has covered. For example, during the Candlelight demonstrations in South Korea in 2008, OhmyNews not only covered the demonstrations with live, round-the-clock video broadcast over the Internet, but also it carried articles in Korean and in English about the demonstrations and the issues involved that ignited the them.

Such activities on the part of OhmyNews have helped to win it the recognition as a pioneering media organization. The recent news that OhmyNews has changed its business plan to one which will rely much more on a community of readers and supporters is welcome news. It is important that a media like OhmyNews not be dependent on the whims and actions of big corporate advertisers.

It has been an important experience to be connected with OhmyNews and I want to offer Mr. Oh and the OhmyNews staff and contributors from around the world my greetings and encouragement to keep up the struggle to create the form of 21st century media that can help to revolutionize the world of journalism.

Notes:

1)Ronda Hauben, OhmyNews and 21st Century Journalism , OhmyNews International, September 9, 2005.


2)Ronda Hauben, Behind the Blacklisting of Banco Delta Asia: Is the policy aimed at targeting China as well as North Korea? , OhmyNews International, May 19. 2007.

A version of this article appears on my netizenblog

2010/02/22 오전 9:40
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