On the lookout for “good journalism”

With the presence of social media and a plethora of available information online, the boundaries have been blurred between the experienced journalist and the citizen journalist. With the Internet, it is simple for individuals to browse news stories casually and quickly. Often, people only read articles that adhere to their beliefs. The method is known as the “Lazy Shortcut,” said Mike LaBonte, an editor, founding member and reviewer for NewsTrust.net.

By allowing members of the website to submit and review articles, NewsTrust is the public’s guide to good journalism. Readers can rate news stories and opinion pieces from mainstream and independent sources (even Vanity Fair!). The categories that NewsTrust distinguishes as “good journalism” include fairness, facts, sources, context, relevance and trust of publications. Members can also write comments to justify the reasons they reviewed an article with a high or low rating. In addition, reviewers can rate other members to increase or decrease their reliability.

NewsTrust, which was established in 2005, is a nonprofit news service that emphasizes civic engagement. The website is still growing, but it needs an enormous amount of people participating for it to be meaningful to the public, LaBonte said. By using the website, members can become critical readers of the news. In my opinion, though, anyone passionate about news should already have a critical eye when reading and listening to the news. (And consumers who aren’t paying attention, well, that’s an issue in itself.) Journalists and consumers of news need to be analytical – of the mainstream media, bloggers, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other sources, always. I appreciate the platform that NewsTrust provides to rate different aspects of quality journalism. Every day I read various news sources and watch different television programs to learn about the news. As a result, I believe I already assess news reports with similar qualifications that NewsTrust provides.

When I began reviewing five articles for a class assignment, the website was confusing to navigate (I still don’t understand why some articles are “pending”). By my third review, I understood that the article I wanted to read would open in another window on the screen, along with the review page. A few days ago I posted two articles, but later wished to remove them from the website. There were no visible “delete” or “remove” buttons, so the articles are still posted under my username.

I was pleased to see a variety of articles on NewsTrust related to my beat. There are certainly several stories about Egypt and other uprisings occurring in the Middle East. I agree with LaBonte that the website allows the empowerment of citizens and encourages consumers to be critical about the news, but it was time consuming. Sometimes I barely have enough time to check the news sources I visit each day! After I reviewed each article, I browsed through other comments. I didn’t think many of the comments were particularly helpful or insightful. I think NewsTrust is a reliable and resourceful tool to use, if people have time. I reviewed “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%” on Sunday, but four days later it was still located under the “Top Stories” heading. I enjoyed the article and gave it a 3.7, but there must be another recent and relevant story to replace it on the homepage. Four days is a lifetime in the news business!

I think NewsTrust needs a faster turnover of stories during each day to keep readers interested and to gain new reviewers. In fact, I didn’t know NewsTrust existed until Professor Kennedy mentioned it in class. I wasn’t aware of their blog or Facebook and Twitter accounts until I read the “About” page. Ideally, the reviews would be less time consuming and easier to access if a link to NewsTrust could appear at the end of articles in various news outlets. Instead of reading a story in The New York Times, posting it and, finally, reviewing it on NewsTrust, it would be simple if members could click a button at the bottom of the page to review a story. Overall, after reviewing five articles, though, I appreciate the emphasis NewsTrust places on paying attention to the aspects of stories that define “good journalism.” The goal of NewsTrust is ideal, but I am concerned the general public is too lazy to read and to rate articles. That might be asking a bit too much. Unfortunately, I am pleased when I see someone simply holding a newspaper and reading it. Forget about asking them to rate a story online.

First inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Second inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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One Response to On the lookout for “good journalism”

  1. Pingback: Social-networking the news with NewsTrust | Reinventing the News • Spring 2011

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