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OhMyNews International Felled by Scale

Sad news for citizen journalism: OhMyNews International, the global English-language version of South Korea’s OhMyNews, is shuttering its program, becoming instead a site about citizen journalism.

From the new site:

“The new OMNI is a guide to what citizen journalists, academics, and even professionals are thinking about how everyone will collaborate on the news of the future.”

But it was so successful? Why shut it down? Because of its success:

The paid editors for OmN found it increasingly difficult to verify facts because stories poured in from all over the world. OmN receives as many as 225 articles per day from a pool of 70,000 citizen journalists. “Fact checking is one of our core principles,” according to the OMNI team.

This is, in my experience, a problem you only ever dream of with a citizen journalism effort: too big to maintain. But it’s an important thing to plan for, as the closure of probably the biggest international cit-journ platform in the world emphasizes.

How do you plan around it? I think you either alter your standards for publication (label some stories un-verified) or, even better, you get your contributors to help you out. Start by attracting your best contributors to be volunteer fact-checkers/editors. Then build a vetting system within the community that lessens the amount of employee time spent verifying stories. Imagine a simple comment-like interface that appended various approvals from trusted users to a story – the story wouldn’t get to staff editors without three of them.

OMNI is encouraging its contributors to keep writing – pushing them to write for local efforts or for their own blogs – posts that OMNI will likely aggregate. It may be that on the global scale aggregation is the only scalable method – but I like to think it’s not. (Go Demotix!)

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