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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Where Did All the Good Journalism Go? rory o'connor

For the past two years, I've been volunteering as NewsTrust's Editorial Director. This fledgling social news site offers citizens an integrated online service, which includes a quality news filter, media literacy tools and -- most importantly -- a trust network. One major feature is its daily feed of quality news and opinions drawn from hundreds of sources, submitted and then rated by community reviewers. NewsTrust members are encouraged to check their personal opinions at the door and instead judge the news based on quality, and not simply popularity. (One observer dubbed NewsTrust "Digg for Grownups.") The NewsTrust web review tools enable its members to evaluate fairness, evidence, sourcing and other core journalistic principles. The service also rates its own reviewers and validates their expertise, to ensure the reliability of its quality ratings. Given that questions of trust, quality, accountability and verification are among the most important issues facing journalism today -- and given the further fact that a truly functioning democracy requires an informed citizenry -- finding real answers to these media-and-democracy questions is crucial to helping us all make more informed decisions about our lives and governments -- and thus to our very future as a democratic society.

The NewsTrust experiment is still in beta form and no one -- particularly its visionary founder Fabrice Florin -- claims the approach has been perfected. "I'd say it shows great promise, but we still have a ways to go," says Florin, who is rightly concerned about over-hyping a service that is still in its infancy, "But it could become one of the best systems out there for filtering the news based on quality -- as well as for increasing our own media literacy." The good news is that the "social news network" concept does seem to be working. One indication can be found by examining NewTrust's own 'Best Journalism of 2007' lists, featuring both the 'Top 10 News Stories' and 'Top 10 Opinions' of 2007.


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