Mike LaBonte, editor and reviewer for NewsTrust, gets what people are saying: people don’t trust the news anymore. Sure there are reliable outlets, but even the big boys put out a less-than-perfect piece from time to time.
NewsTrust’s plan for filtering the news: let the readers be the judge.
It’s really quite simple. NewsTrust provides stories from a variety of news outlets, and readers are invited to rate them journalistic quality– facts, bias, sourcing, writing style, etc.– they can then comment specifically on the story. As a result, every pice of news gets an average rating, along with a strand of comments which can help other readers sift through the expanse of options to scrounge up the news that other readers have deemed ‘reliable.’
Sounds pretty simple, so this morning I gave it a whirl. I kept things simple, selecting three of today’s headline stories: Polish President Lech Kaczynski dies in plane crash, from the BBC; George W. Bush ‘knew Guantanamo prisoners were innocent, from The Times and CIA Assigned to Kill US Citizen from consortiumnews.com. Each of which I reviewed.
What I liked about the reviewing experience was it forced me to really analyze my news on its journalistic value, which, as bad as it sounds, is often something that slips my mind. I browse the headlines of nyt.com, read what looks important, and accept it as fact, rarely stopping to count sources or assess context. The process of reviewing though, forced me to think through all the elements of each piece, and consider what, as a journalist, should ultimately be there.
However, I do find a few flaws with this model. First off, when I go to read the news, I generally don’t have the time to heavily analyze each article and think through each article analytically and post a review of it. I simply want to skim through headlines to gather a sense of what’s going on. And I imagine that many others approach the news with a similar mentality– they’re not reading the news to do a service to others, they’re simply looking to find the quickest way to gather a sense of what’s happening in the world.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I imagine most people go to a news source for the most up-to-the minute headlines. And what I noticed by reviewing the front-page headlines, was that they had very few reviews. To me, this defeats the whole purpose of the site– if a story is only rated by three people, that hardly gives a sense of its journalistic integrity.
It’s certainly a fresh take on a current problem, but without adequate participation, NewsTrust can’t ultimately function in an effective way.