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THE WEB ABROAD

Korean citizens are the new Woodwards and Bernsteins

August 31, 2003|Gendy Alimurung

The Web site: www.ohmynews.com

The back story: OhmyNews, a progressive online Korean-language newspaper, is written primarily by "citizen reporters." Founded in 1999 by thirtysomething former underground magazine writer Oh Yeon-Ho, who came up with the idea as a class project while studying for his master's degree in the United States, the paper has enlisted some 25,000 people, who write 85% of its stories. A small editorial staff reviews submissions.

For better or worse, OhmyNews -- like the individual Web log -- is spreading the concept that journalism isn't just for professionals anymore. Anybody with information to share can sign up, and OhmyNews reportedly accepts 70% of the pieces it receives.

It gets 1 million hits a day.

The topics: Everything from politics and breaking news, to gossip, arts and culture, science, travel and workers' rights.

The pay: $20 for a top-of-the-page story, less for stories that run lower on the Web page.

Their greatest hits: Last summer, OhmyNews.com reported on a then-little-publicized incident in which a U.S. Army armored minesweeping vehicle on patrol crushed to death two Korean schoolgirls. A series of anti-government demonstrations ensued.

And the online news service has political clout. It's widely credited with having swung the vote and with helping to elect human rights attorney and underdog reformer candidate Roh Moo Hyun -- South Korea's new president. His first post-election interview, not surprisingly, went to Ohmynews.

-- Gendy Alimurung

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