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Travel in Cameroon, Africa and the world > 2006 OhmyNews Conference In Seoul

23 Jul 2006

This was the second such conference to be organized by OMNI and was to last from the 12th to the 14th July 2006. The theme of the Conference was ‘Citizen Journalism-Best Practices’. Participants came from all the continents and two of us were Africans-myself from Cameroon and Bright Simons –a Ghanaian based in Britain.

A welcome dinner was organized for all participants on the 11th floor of the Bestwestern Premier Incheon Airport hotel in the evening of the 12th. It was an opportunity to get used to each other and the atmosphere that evening was very appealing.


Conference participants at dinner (photo:Njei M.T)


The conference proper kicked off in the morning of the 13th with a welcome speech by Oh Yeon-ho, CEO and founder of OhmyNews International. This was followed in succession (for the next two days) by presentations from respected individuals that are knowledgeable in the field of information technology and citizen journalism. Dan Gilmor stressed that we must not abandon principles of journalism such as thoroughness, accuracy, fairness and independence as we embrace citizen journalism. He delved into the software applications and technical jargon like web 2.0, RSS, OPML and API. He used an interesting demonstration where media ‘mashups’ (putting media together) technology was used to merge video and sound to produce a film in which George Bush was singing with Tony Blair.  We also heard from Craig Newmark of the Craigslist.org “My role is to help people speak truth to power.”  JD Lasica of Ourmedia gave a presentation on content management systems and related topics. This was followed by Bryan Nunez of Witness.org, that gave a talk on Citizen Journalism and Technology-A human rights perspective. Timothy Lord of Slashdot.org (news for nerds). ‘people are curious, contentious and helpful’. We next heard from Ethan Zuckerman of globalvoicesonline.org. He made a comparison between Nigeria and Japan and said that though the two countries have roughly the same population, there was eight times more news from Japan than Nigeria. ‘How do you amplify something?’ ‘How can you keep bloggers out of prison?’ ‘How do you get people to listern?’ These are some of the issues Ethan reflects on while keeping an eye on developing countries and his “heart in Accra”.

Susan Defife of Backfence.com gave an interesting presentation on how a citizen journalism website for a local community can function. Ingredients include local presence, community outreach, grass root marketing, and user-generated content. Todd Thacker, editor at Ohmynews gave a talk on his work at OhmyNews. He said there were 1100 citizen reporters in 92 countries and OhmyNews had four fulltime editors working in two shifts. He said editing is challenging because you are sometimes tempted to become emotionally attached to a story you are editing. “Editors don’t cry”- a form of motto to remind editors to get emotionally detached from the stories they are editing.

We also heard from Michael Weiss who is successfully running a citizen journalism website in Israel called Scoop.co.il. His success is largely attributed to the fact that many Israelis use the Internet to access news. Other keynote speakers include Erik Larsen of Flix.dk and professor Gary Chapman of University of Texas at Austin. Gary Chapman’s lecture on citizen journalism and the Digital divide had much relevance to those of us coming from countries with limited Internet access. He said that the Internet is 37 years old and users worldwide have just past one billion. The Internet is found in all countries except North Korea (a surprising revelation when you consider the level of Internet penetration and sophistication in neighboring South Korea). He talked on how they are conceiving ideas on rural Internet approach. Options under consideration include Satellite Internet, Digital audio and community radio, Solar-powered PCs and wireless, asynchronous ‘data mules’ etc. He said that he was hopeful as lower cost and lower power devices were in the pipeline coupled with free open source software and wireless (wimax ) technology. (see other conference images at these links)

1. Nga, Njei and Oh Yeon-ho http://www.njeitimah-outlook.com/albums/album_image/2075996/1060164.htm

2. Njei and OhmyNews Staff http://www.njeitimah-outlook.com/albums/album_image/2075996/1060167.htm

3. Njei, Kang and OhmyNews posters http://www.njeitimah-outlook.com/albums/album_image/2075996/1060746.htm


Other speakers including citizen reporters ranging from Brazil to Palestine and from Cameroon to Nepal made colorful presentations from multiple angles. It was indeed an enriching experience for all participants. It is even more so that the video of everything that transpired is available at this link. http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?no=304736&rel_no=1

(My own presentation can be found on session seven (about 25 minutes into the session)

Closing remarks were made by 71 year Michael Lomas from Canada-a man with a bag full of humor. “I will not take much of your time because I am 71 and I do not have much time left either”. He said to the laughter of the hall. The forum came to a close after a tour of the Ubiquitous dream hall and a dinner at Korea house offered by Korea National Tourism Organization.


Njei Moses Timah