On being a citizen reporter: an international perspective, part II

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This is the second in a series of presentations made during the OhmyNews International Citizen Reporters’ Forum in Seoul, Korea on July 14 and 15. OhmyNews is one of the first and largest Web sites for citizen journalism, the same citizen-driven content that fuels the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

The experiences of the reporters (some use the term journalist) are varied and represent a wide range of international experiences. They have come to Seoul to meet other citizen reporters and to hear about other efforts across the globe to organize and give voice to citizen media.

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist.org

Craig believes that their approach is a very simple one — and simple is good. Call it Web 0.1 rather than 2.0! Craigslist is primarily a classified ads and discussion board. Yes, it helps people but he personally believes that what’s also important is the work being done for international citizen reporting. Citizen reports help add power to speech.

The changing media landscape is a whirlwind. Lately it’s been a marketplace in the ancient sense that it’s chaotic, unruly and vividly human. But the landscape also provides a community service run by the people who use it.

As the people at Craigslist run their site, they are talking to people all the time. Craig finds that people are generally trustworthy. Sure, there are scammers and harassers of all sorts, but mostly people are good.

He’s also learned that the wisdom of crowds is set against the “tragedy of the commons.” That is, the collective conscience of the Internet more than makes up for the abuse that people can bring to a site. So it does require some managing, tending and general watchfulness, just as any genuine democracy would.

There will always be disinformation gangs who use the technology to stage smear campaigns or whisper campaigns. But one singular and incorrect viewpoint never endures on the Internet. Multiple voices make corrections over time resulting in a history that is written by more than just the “victors”.

Craig’s involvement at today’s conference is for himself, not Craigslist. He says that he wants other people to change the world, since they are witness to the many events of the world. Or, he says, he could just be lazy! We don’t think so …

He believes that you need people to speak the truth to empower them. That’s important when professional journalists such as Edward R. Murrow risked their careers to tell the truth. Today the risk is just as high. At the same time the professional journalism industry has become a somewhat dulled sword. It is Comedy Central’s The Daily Show which is becoming the most trusted news on television, which was forecast by Oscar Wilde who said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”

Craig mentioned several specific efforts in citizen journalism:
“www.citmedia.org”:http:www.citmedia.org, the Center for Citizen Media) on the state of the art
“www.daylife.com”:http://www.daylife.com, a news/trust aggregator built on trustworthy news
Sourcewatch ‘s Congresspedia (a project of the Center for Media and Democracy).

He also mentioned that the BBC does have a nonprofit effort in training citizen journalists around the world. The BBC wants journalists and any interested people should contact Craig.?

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