The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

Journalism in a heartbeat

I’ve admired Oh Yeonho since the day I heard his credo: “Every citizen is a reporter.” But today he gave me a new mantra I think better describes the type of journalist I most admire:

“Your heart must beat.”

Oh, founder of OhMyNews and arguably the modern citizen journalism movement, was at the Missouri School of Journalism this week to receive a Missouri Honor Medal for his distinguished work in our field.With the Master

I was very happy to see him and not just to return the hospitality he offered me when I spoke at the OhMyNews International Citizen Reporters Forum in 2005. I also teach the first and maybe still the only university citizen journalism course that staffs and viable community Web site. This was a very rare chance for my students to meet with the man who literally wrote the book.

Oh lectured to several classes but met with my students informally. They had the chance to discuss with him the challenges all of us who work in citizen journalism face.

We went through all the expected topics from credibility to economics to logistics. But the key comment came at the end of our discussion when I asked him what advice he would give to someone hoping for a 21st century career in journalism.

“Your heart must beat.”

The roughness of his English produced pure poetry. Oh wanted us to know that journalism requires much more than skills in spelling, grammar and note-taking. It requires passion. Your heart must beat with the excitement of life, the excitement of humanity.

I spent the bulk of my career learning and then teaching journalists to stifle their heartbeat. Unbiased journalism requires dispassionate reporting. We try to be Spock in a world full of mercurial Kirks.

But the man from Korea asked us to shed our pointed ears. He also knows that trick is no easier metaphorically than it is physically. As he proudly pointed out, OhMyNews did not get its title from the founder’s name. It is instead an exclamation – like “Oh my God!”  It speaks volumes about the new role of everyday people in the world of information.

And it makes my heart beat.

Clyde Bentley

October 9, 2007 - Posted by | Clyde Bentley

1 Comment »

  1. Great post Clyde! I wanted to add my thoughts briefly because I, too, was indelibly impressed by Mr. Oh. I’m not sure who I thought he would be. Maybe I thought he’d be a little more bombastic about his accomplishments. Throughout our discussion, however, he conducted himself with the utmost humility. He didn’t portray himself as the man with all the answers. He simply acted like a man who saw a need and acted to fill it, maybe even a man who made a few mistakes along the way.
    The great example I took from him, and I think others should emulate, is an openness to admit he doesn’t know everything and a willingness to listen to others to gain perspective.
    News organizations, as Clyde so eloquently pointed out, have not listened to their audiences enough. That is the beginning of the new media revolution, not the technology itself.

    Comment by Hans K. Meyer | October 10, 2007 | Reply

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