Can the Collective Wisdom of the Net Outwit the MSM?
The first time I met Fabrice Florin, I thought he looked a little like a mad scientist.
Still, with flyaway hair, a harried, preoccupied manner and a lot on his plate, the former TV producer and online netertainment executive revealed an intriguing project during last year's Media Giraffe politics and media conference.
He called it NewsTrust, and it was supposed to help ease the suspicion of news consumers about the quality of news stories, by presenting stories selected as high quality by a huge array of users who visit the site.
Unlike Digg and some other, similar sites, Floin developed an online form to help his users rate the journalism they were evaluating. Users could grade stories they rated on a scale of 1 to 5 in 12 different areras, including accuracy, fairness, sources, balance and style. Those who called up the story could see those ratings tallied up, along with comments on the piece, to help them decide whether it was, indeed, trustworthy news.
And this wasn't something Florin implemented lightly. When we met back in July, he was dreafting select folks -- myself included -- to help with the final development of his review criteria, which initially came from scouring ethical codes and guildelines from journalism organizatrion across the globe and boiling them down to key questions. Over 1,000 people helped quietly test the format.
Click on the above link to see the beta version of NewsTrust which is now open to the general public. If you plan to sign up to rate stories, you will see they ask as much about the reviewers as they do the stories under scrutiny, to better understand the motivations and judgment at hand.
A look at some of the highest-rated news outlets -- The Daily Show, lefty investigative journalist Greg Palast, Amy Goodman's Democracy Now TV show -- and there's a definite political sensibility revealed. Still, the notion that an aggregate of web users with varied expertise and attitudes can help evaluate the work of professional journalists is intruiging, if a bit threatening.
But Florin has said many times he doesn't hve a grudge against traditional journalism, he just wants to harness the collective power of the Internet to make it better. Surf by the fruit of his efforts and judgethe results for yourself.