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You Are the News!

Five Reasons Why Citizen Journalism is a concept whose time has come

A few short years ago when a big story broke, the nation would anxiously wait for reporters to share the scoop with the folks at home. Today, the image of families crowded around the TV has a slightly anachronistic feel, almost as though the flat screen set is the glowing radio of WW II lore.

The ubiquitousness of the Internet has changed everything.

Not only does news travel faster, it may be accessed via any Web site, blog, or virtual community of your choosing. No surprise, then, that "we the people" are not only shaping how we get the scoop, we're demanding a hand in dishing it out as well.

"Journalism is changing right alongside the technology that brings it to us, and a whole new style of reporting has emerged," says Paul Sullivan, a veteran newspaper editor and editor in chief of citizen journalism site Orato.com. "Listen closely. That sound you detect is nothing less than the powerful voice of the people demanding to be heard."

What is citizen journalism?

As the name suggests, it's the act of untrained everyday citizens assuming the role of reporter and sharing their stories in the first person. And it's not just some "fringe" movement; it's becoming downright mainstream. This month, as massive wildfires ripped across Malibu, San Diego, and other parts of the California countryside, CNN begged for eyewitness accounts of the live destruction for their "I-View" news segments--showing that even big networks acknowledge the growing need to involve the masses in history-making newscasts.

Sullivan says Orato.com, founded by entrepreneur Sam Yehia, was born from this desire to give average people with extraordinary (and ordinary) stories an outlet for sharing what they know. This interactive Web site is a grassroots platform from which citizen journalists can tell it like it is and have their stories acknowledged by hundreds of thousands of visitors a month. And what's more exciting is if the audience likes a story, they can tip the author online!

"'Orato' comes from the Latin word meaning 'I speak,'" says Sullivan. "It's hard for today's news machine to do justice to current issues and the real experiences of people involved in them. We showcase vivid, first-person stories from individuals involved in current events or living amazing lives. Whether it is politics, sports, entertainment, science, love, or war, Orato.com captures news and stories in their rawest form. We are a celebration of every person's right to be heard in his or her own words." ?

Whereas most news stations tend to lean a little (or perhaps a lot) to the left or right, Orato.com covers all kinds of stories and opinions. For example, recent entries include a compelling argument on gun control alongside a first-person account from a minuteman. Anyone can post a story, and if you don't fancy yourself a writer, you can share your viewpoint via audio, video, or photo essay.

The key difference between Orato.com and traditional media? On Orato.com, the subject owns the story. Everyone who shares his or her story gets the final editorial cut. "It's their story," says Sullivan. "Why shouldn't they get to tell it the way they want to tell it?"

Orato.com divides its stories into several categories. For instance:
* Current Events * E-Buzz * Mysteries * Love & Sex * Sports * Travel & Adventure * Health & Science * Lifestyles * Arts & Entertainment

In addition, readers will find a newsletter to which they can subscribe, along with the option to join Orato Village, an interactive writer's community. The possibilities are virtually endless.

Since its inception in 2006, Orato.com has steadily picked up steam. Currently, the site receives dozens of submissions each week, and the numbers are only increasing. Sullivan says Orato.com's growing popularity is a gauge that measures the burgeoning acceptance of this exciting new trend known as citizen journalism.

Next: 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 thismulti-faceted Web site and the future of citizen journalism.


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