The death of Japanese citizen journalism

The NY Times today addresses the closure of a citizen journalism site in Japan with a nod to our own OhmyNews. The article offers keen observations about the role of the state, the citizen and the medium, as well as the history of all three, for news’ future.

JanJan News closed three months ago, citing recent years’ financial morass as the final blow to its weak advertising revenue.

Reporter Martin Fackler notes:

JanJan was the last of four online newspapers offering reader-generated articles that were started with great fanfare here, but they have all closed or had to scale back their operations in the past two years.

He specifically references the OhmyNews experiment that launched in Japan in 2006, only to close about 18 months later. He also draws a comparison between the Korean and Japanese media environments, highlighting differences in culture and government.

OhmyNews Japan in 2006

[it] appears that Japan, with its cultural disdain for those who stick out from the crowd, may be inhospitable terrain for the reader-turned-reporter model …
… another reason for Japan’s resistance to alternative sites is the relative absence of social and political divisions. In politically polarized South Korea, OhmyNews thrived by appealing to young, liberal readers.

His second point is particularly important. These citizen journalism sites launched in Japan more than 50 years after the establishment of a stable, democratic government. When OhmyNews began in 2000, Korean democracy was just seven years old. The role of the state had yet to be determined, while the former military government remained a living memory for the 386 generation.

If you have interest in the development of the media in your virtual backyard, the entire article is worth a look.

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06 2010

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