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How I Came to OhmyNews
[Citizen Reporters in Their Own Words] David Weber from the U.S.
David Michael Weber (crossfire)     Print Article 
Published 2006-06-30 19:01 (KST)   
A gathering of citizen reporters at the OhmyNews HQ
©2006 D.Weber
I first came across OhmyNews or rather OhmyNews came across me two years or so back when I was writing travel stories for a travel Web site -- Bootsnall.com.

I got an email from Todd Thacker, one of the editors at OhmyNews, inquiring if I was still a Ronin English Teacher -- referring to my misadventure of my first experience at teaching in Japan. At first I thought Todd was another Todd I knew from a teaching job I did near Mt. Fuji where I got to scream at students and get paid for it. I replied back in a rather casual tone -- i.e. insulting him, his mother, and his girlfriend, etc... Todd replied back that he was not the Todd I thought he was and that he assumed I meant his Mother no real grief.

Boy, was I embarrassed! I had a different Todd entirely, one who was an editor of an online magazine who was interested in my writing, and not a co-worker/drinking buddy. Fortunately, we were able to get past that rocky beginning and I started writing and re-writing my travel stories for OhmyNews.

©2006 D.Weber
I try (emphasis on try) in my stories to be somewhat entertaining, moderately informative, and hopefully slightly funny so that should anyone accidentally fall upon one of my stories they will at least not entirely regret those few precious seconds of their life that they wasted in reading said stories.

The first year I wrote for OhmyNews I really didn't understand the whole citizen journalism thingamajig. I just thought OhmyNews was a good place to print my stories and get feedback. It was at the first conference that my eyes were really opened to the impact of citizen journalism.

Ronda Hauben gives a speech at the Banquet
©2006 D.Weber
I came to realize the importance of such outlets such as OhmyNews in bringing overlooked stories to a wider audience. I particularly remembered the story of a Korean small store owner who wrote about the difficulties people in her field faced. Before that, most of the Korean public were unaware that such a situation existed.

Then there are the stories from Iran where the reporters risk imprisonment for giving the world a voice so often unheard of in such parts. Their bravery and the issues they address made my turmoil of teaching little hellions in Japan so small and petty in comparison.

©2006 D.Weber
As for the conference itself, initially I remember having a mix feeling of anticipation and dread. I was worried the conference would just resemble a long drawn out salesmen-like seminar of self-gratifying praise, shameless company propaganda, and new-ageish like self-help sermonizing filled with soulless smiling participants with stars in their eyes parroting nauseous maxims of positive spouting ripped from motivation pamphlets. Yes, I am jaded. Can you tell?

©2006 D.Weber
Instead I had a great time and met some awesome people from all over the world who were down to earth and ready to drink beer. In short, it was a blast, exclamation point. Granted there were a few dull speeches here and there from well-meaning folk on important issues but it was all good.

Fighting a losing battle against a yawn
©2006 D.Weber
The last night of the conference, quite a number of us got together and went to a Korean bar for some beer and cheer. Our group chatted and argued through-out the night espousing similar and contrasting opinions on various issues. No fist fights broke out, no glasses were broken, nor were any vendettas sworn out. If only world leaders could meet with such restraint and merriment.

©2006 D.Weber
One of the Korean participants thought this was a wonderful opportunity to introduce us to the delicacy of a squirming tentacle recently removed from a live octopus. He rushed off to procure one and was soon back with a platter of squiggling bits of tentacle. The brave few who dared this daunting delicacy matched their wits and chopsticks with the still pulsing nerve responses of the tentacle which refused to go down without a fight. It suctioned itself to platter, to chopstick, and to the throat of its consumer!

A few of us began to sing old songs from our homelands in order to give us spirit in our culinary combat. Though a hated American, I became an honorary Canadian that night when I was able to croon almost successfully the entire lyrics to the classic Canadian song: "Barrett's Privateers" with a true-blooded Canadian. We later tried our hand with an Irishman on the only Pogue song we all knew -- "Fairytale in New York" which is actually a Christmas song. Considering the out-of-placeness of everything else at the Forum, the song was quite apt being that it was sung in June.

©2006 D.Weber
As the night wore on and the beer flowed ceaselessly, I began to feel a warm tingling glow. Perhaps it was just the wriggling octopus tentacle caught in my throat that was slowly choking the oxygen to my brain, but I felt a oneness with them all. I felt a certain amount of kinship amongst this eclectic ensemble of people from various countries and backgrounds and opinions.

I remember an impromptu speech I had to give at a Sabbath dinner in Jerusalem several years earlier that seems to illustrate the occasion. I had said that all of us everywhere regardless of our race, creed, color, musical appreciation are all just fellow passengers on this great big blue-green Winnebago bus called Earth hurdling through the cosmos. And we'd better be ready whenever God decides to pull over and asks us to chip in for gas.

©2006 D.Weber
©2006 OhmyNews
A native Tennesseean, David M. Weber is currently at the grammatical grindstone cranking out gerunds, dangling modifiers and perfecting tenses as an English teacher in Japan. In his travels, he has hiked the Inca Trail, been mugged in Mexico City, broke his leg in Switzerland, attempted to bike through Mexico and failed, climbed Pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, drank great quantities of beer at Oktoberfest and gambled at Monte Carlo.
Other articles by reporter David Michael Weber

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