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Common Questions about Citizen Journalism

and the Web Site That Gives It a Voice

Some Common Questions about Citizen Journalism and the Web Site That Gives It a Voice Paul Sullivan, editor of Orato.com, takes a moment to tell us a little bit about this multi-faceted Web site and the future of citizen journalism.

Tell us a bit about who's running the show.

We at Orato.com are journalists, designers, and all-around news junkies. We've all worked in the media before and understand the demand for relevant, thought-provoking, and useful stories. At the same time, we want the news to be delivered in a new, more colorful way--by adding the voices of the people we traditionally think of as the audience.

Talk about why Orato.com is successful.

We feel that people today feel disenfranchised in the world. Most of us have something to say but too many people have no one to listen to them. There is a very real sense of helplessness because important issues are often overlooked by the traditional media. Orato.com makes the point to reveal stories people want to read about and give everyday citizens a chance to be heard.

How did citizen journalism become what it is today?

More and more people are blogging and making their lives accessible to the public online. They are becoming empowered to interpret the world for themselves and citizen journalism is simply the next step in the evolution. Major news networks are adding segments devoted to citizen journalism as long as it fits in with the theme of their broadcast. We are taking it a step further to allow the people to choose the theme and its interpretation! And to top it off, we hand over final editorial authority to the authors. It's their story, after all.

What kinds of stories do you receive?

We get all kinds of responses and try to use as much as we can. We have had some pretty fascinating personalities submit stories. Duane "Dog" Chapman. Hollywood actor Corey Haim. And most recently, Mildred Muhammad, the ex-wife of the DC Sniper. And countless other "unknowns" who are no less interesting for their lack of celebrity. And we also have many traditional submissions regarding current events. We try to find that delicate balance of news that is relevant, thought-provoking, and at times edgy. We encourage anyone to bring us a story. And we are very satisfied with our results so far.

Do you edit or have a fact checker?

We won't print libelous statements, nor will we accept stories we find to be fabricated or plagiarized. Accuracy is the key to Orato.com's credibility. We also encourage our correspondents and visitors to report stories they're concerned about.

So are there other platforms offered for the non-writing reporters out there?

Yes, we have a number of multi-media platforms to choose from in addition to text, including audio, video, and photo essay slideshows. There is a place for everyone!

What makes a great story for Orato.com?

We simply ask that the submitter uses his or her own words and keeps it simple. Even though the stories come from people not professionally affiliated with the media, we couldn't ask for better quality than what we receive. This suggests that a great story may have little to do with training in journalism. We forget that not so long ago, most reporters did not have journalism degrees. Anyone with a vision and a heart can tell a story--and do it justice.

So Orato.com gets to the heart of journalism?

Let me put it this way. Reporters do a great job passing on secondhand information, but they are simply a mouthpiece for the story's source. But our stories are straight from the horse's mouth. You can't get a better interpretation anywhere because we go right to the source and liberate the speaker, so to speak.

How many hits are you getting a day?

We average 5,500 unique visits a day, or around 200,000 hits a day. Most recent months have us logging 200,000 unique visits a month--and over 2 million hits a month.

What's your most popular story right now?

Dog the Bounty Hunter. This was true before the "N-word" controversy hit and also afterward. We are trying to persuade Dog to write another story to share his thoughts on what happened and what he's learned from it.

Does Orato.com support a specific political viewpoint or are you neutral?

Orato.com has one strong principle: we believe in freedom of speech for every man, woman, and child. There's too much censorship, even in America, where if you say something that's politically incorrect, you get pilloried. Human rights are important, but none of them work unless everyone has a right to say what they believe, even if what they believe is unpopular. If you don't break the law of the land, and if you respect our rules and guidelines, we'll post your story.

You have a few stories penned by celebrities or their families and friends. Please talk about this. Any interesting tidbits about these journalists?

Our editors have established some surprising relationships with celebrities. They think it's great that Orato.com gives them the final editorial authority over their own words--they're used to being put down or distorted by the media. And most of the ones we talk to seem pretty conflicted about fame--they crave the public eye, but there are days when they just want to be left alone. We're there for them in ways that other media aren't. We're just interested in their own story, in their own words. Orato.com is a sanctuary for celebrities!

So I hear word of a tip jar. Please elaborate on this feature of your Web site.

Budding writers, videographers, podcasters, and photographers can earn money for their pieces by the tips audience members offer, based on the popularity of their pieces. We keep looking for unique ways to put the power back into the hands of the people and this is one way to do it.

Where does most of your media come from?

The vast majority of our audience and our stories come from the US...more than 60 percent. Canada is the next biggest source and then, as you'd expect, other English-speaking countries such as Australia and New Zealand. But we've had stories posted from more than 100 countries around the world, from Norway to Tasmania.


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