Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Future of Reputable Journalism

It's hard to tell where news organisations are headed. The trends we are seeing include massive circulation drops for print newspapers, as they are replaced by the popularity of a few popular news blogs - Huffington Post, TMZ, Perez Hilton and hundreds or thousands of others.

We now have a situation where "real news", from Reuters or Associated Press, can instantly be repackaged in a more sensationalist, but less accurate way. And the source doesn't make a penny. Just like pirated movies, this cannot be stopped, but perhaps the majority of folk will end up preferring the real deal in the long term.

But how can people determine how authentic a news item is? Historically, if it was in a major newspaper, it was reliable. These businesses had a lifetime measured in centuries, and a rigorous approach was essential for long-term credibility. Nowadays, short-term profits seem to be a priority over longevity.

In the near future, we will need some form of accreditation to assure us of a news item's accuracy. A few sites will get by on reputation alone, but the rest will need a touch of something extra. There are two dominant ways of achieving this:

Journalist Accreditation - either an eBay type rating system, or something hard-earned like a degree in jorunalism.

Site Accreditation - either an eBay type rating system, or an automated system that looks at number of other sites that refer to its articles, or a peer-review system.

I predict a combination of all 5!

One service can look at all 5 factors and combine them into a score that can be viewed in a browser toolbar. A rating system / wiki combination can let readers debate the credibility and levels of bias of a journalist, or news site.

Links to news sites can be tagged with a for or against value (perhaps -/=/+) that lets the service know if, when linking to story, you are voting for its credibility, or not. A PageRank type system can add weight to links from more popular sites.

Once an online news service reaches a certain level of popularity/traffic, a professional body might offer to review and accredit a site for a fee.

Ultimately, if a news site has positive incoming links, few negative reviews, and pays for + receives accreditation, then it will score high, and I will see this in my browser toolbar, aqnd trust it.

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