Mon, Jul 23, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Web site draws citizen reporters

COMMUNITY NEWS Amateur journalists are covering a variety of developments, such as changes made at a flood-prone creek or farmland that has become polluted

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wu Ping-hai (吳平海) has neither a journalism degree nor experience working for newspapers or TV news programs.

But Wu's video camera has recorded a footage from a wide range of events, documenting the personal stories of ordinary people and the issues that concern local communities.

Wu posts short documentaries on peopo.org, an online citizen news platform started recently by the Taiwan Broadcasting System.

Two of his films document the study of farmland tree frogs, a species only found in Taiwan, and the experiences of foreign spouses learning Mandarin in Meinung Township (美濃), Kaohsiung County.

Wu was one of more than 700 citizen journalists who have contributed to community news coverage since the creation of the platform in April.

They have generated more than 2,200 news stories over the past three months.

They cover many noteworthy events or phenomena in local communities, such as changes being made at the flood-prone Pa-Chang Creek (八掌溪) or farmland becoming polluted.

Wu told the seminar yesterday that he was aware that other online platforms also allow people to upload videos, but he said that footage of environmental protection or minority issues often disappears into a massive database and remains unnoticed.

To ensure the quality of stories, the Web site's administrators have asked would-be contributers to submit a formal application before posting reports and footage.

Like Wu, most of the contributors do not have any formal training in journalism. Some said they did not know how to edit a film before deciding to take up citizen journalism.

But a lack of filming experience has not prevented contributors from producing some excellent reports.

A citizen journalist nicknamed "A-mao" (阿毛) captured interesting moments during a trip with friends from the Scouts Club of National Houpi Senior High School on the narrow-gauge railway from Chiayi to Alishan.

They filmed historical sites and conversations, including their meeting with an 84-year-old man who had been drafted into the Japanese Army during World War II.

"The experience made me realize that Taiwan is not as bad as it seems on TV," A-mao told the seminar.

"Some things just need to be done soon," he said. "You can always choose to do these things later, but the people or the things you want to shoot sometimes can't wait that long."

For another citizen journalist, "Claudia," her goal is to report on important local issues.

"I could never become a TV anchor with my looks and my bad pronunciation of Mandarin and Taiwanese," she said.

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