All the News That’s Fit to Print

May 9, 2008 at 9:50 am

Since the late ’90s, Americans have looked to the Internet for news that may have been ignored by traditional media. After online portal The Drudge Report published a rumor about President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (a rumor that Newsweek initially declined to write about) in 1998, Matt Drudge became famous. Independent journalism has been around a lot longer than the web, of course, but the sheer number of blogs, aggregate news sites and online-only journals (like Salon and Slate) have changed the way we perceive and process our news.

In South Korea in 2000, a site called OhMyNews was created by Oh Yeon Ho. Established as an alternative to mainstream newspapers, it was a huge hit among the would-be citizen journalist set and even helped change the course of an election. But when the company tried to open a similar site in Japan, they were met with resistance.

In Japan, everyday citizens aren’t as motivated to take the news into their own hands. According to the Japan Times, many Japanese don’t have the time or inclination to do research, conduct interviews or volunteer for writing positions that pay little if anything (citizen journalism isn’t known for big bucks). Also, they “are shy of using their real names.” In contrast, anonymous forums and message boards are hugely popular in Japan.
Lastly, “in Japan people basically believe what they read in the papers and see on the news,” so the impetus to strike out on one’s own to learn “the truth” isn’t really there.

Still, there are a few Japanese websites that encourage amateur journalists to bring smaller or little-known stories to light, such as JanJan and PJ News (“public journalists deliver daily news”), which works in conjunction with livedoor, a Japanese ISP. Who knows? Maybe a writer at one of those sites will break the biggest news story of the year…

Sarah S.

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