I’m at the Incheon airport, heading home, after a conference that has, by turn, inspired and amazed me. The OhmyNews Citizen Journalism Forum, which concluded last evening with a dinner in Seoul, brought together people from around the world to share experiences and ideas about their work.
It’s been a remarkable several days. Although I gave one talk and moderated a panel, my goal was mainly to listen, and learn. I’ll be sharing some of what I heard and learned in an upcoming post, but at least three impressions are already indelible.
First, and of course I’ve believed this all along, this phenomenon is for real. Period. Yes, there will be lots more fits and starts, and setbacks that infuriate and worry us, but every year shows progress.
Second, the citizen journalists here, some of whom write for OhmyNews and others of whom have created their own operations, and incurably optimistic. They have discovered the power of their own work and voices, and are pushing ahead despite the very real obstacles we all acknowledge.
Third, the search continues for business models, and there’s great debate on how to encourage people to participate in ways that give them value for what they’re doing. We’re seeing some examples of ideas that work well, and projects that haven’t worked. (OhmyNews is an example of the former, and its hybrid, pro-amateur method may be a key reason.) We learn from all of it.
I keep reminding folks that we’re in the very early days of all this. It’s crucial to keep that in mind when we’re tempted toward pessimism. The current mini-backlash against citizen journalism, meanwhile, is a natural and even valuable state of affairs: When something gets built up in the public sphere, well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) critics point out the flaws. None of this approaches perfection, but it’s getting better all the time. That’s the best news.