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SpirE-Journal 2007 Q3

OhmyNews

Reader's Ratings:

OhmyNews

The first of its kind in the world to accept, edit and publish articles from its readers, South Korean online site OhmyNews has taken the nation by storm.

Using an open-source style of news reporting, the majority of articles are written by the public. These amateur reporters across South Korea submit some 200 news and feature articles a day, which are fact-checked and edited by a professional staff of about 65 at its newsroom in Seoul.

OhmyNews has, above all, opened the playing field for debate in South Korea’s animated political landscape – having played an instrumental role in the 2002 presidential elections. The online paper undermined the conservative news authorities in the country and helped bring about a political watershed with the election of President Roh Moo-hyun and the subsequent Cabinet change.

A critical success factor for OhmyNews has been the unusual readership profile in Korea. South Korea is one of the world’s most wired nations, with broadband penetration in over 70 percent of homes. According to an opinion poll undertaken for the BBC and Reuters, more than a third of South Koreans said the web was their most important news source, above the world average. People in South Korea are also worried about interference in the media, both from government and from media executives. 70% said the authorities interfered too much, and over 60% thought that media owners affected the way journalists reported events.

OhmyNews founder Oh Yeon Ho explained his concept at the Japan Media Review:

“In Korea, readers’ dissatisfaction and distrust with the conventional press had considerably increased. Citizens’ desire to express themselves greatly increased. Thus, on the one hand; discontent with the conventional press, on the other hand, citizens’ desire to talk about themselves. These two things were joined together.

I had confidence that citizen participation in journalism was something that citizens currently desired. But I could not imagine that the fire would spring into a blaze in such a short time.”

So what makes its coverage different from the traditional media? OhmyNews claims it has been bold in breaking stories. When the boss of the giant Samsung conglomerate took his family on holiday to Europe – and dozens of staff were obliged to check every detail of the schedule for months – an employee decided to send a first-person account to OhmyNews and the Korean corporate scandal surfaced.

The site gets 1.7 million to 2 million page views each day, a number that peaked at over 20 million during the December 2002 presidential election6. Its pioneering idea of engaging readers, particularly the younger generation, is widely emulated by rivals in South Korea and all the way to CNN and the BBC. Mainstream media websites now post videos, photos and comments from the public.

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