Hate, props, and hotness: restoring journalism’s credibility

Journalism.co.uk sez:

NewsCred, a website aimed at gauging the credibility of online news, has been launched in a beta. The site, which aims to help users find ‘the highest quality and most credible news online’, has created a digital newspaper of aggregated articles, which are voted on by users.

NewsCred is some really neat shit. It ain’t breaking news that journalism’s got a bit of a credibility problem — okay, a disasterous credibility problem. When we lose our cred, we’ve got nothing! Credibility is journalism’s *only* currency. Who do you believe? Blog X or The New York Times?

Why is our credibility in the crapper?

Hotness. MSNBC, Fox News, and the 24 hour news cycle. Speculation, opinion and spectacle have ruined the news. Every time we report on flag pins, pregnant dudes or autism-causing vaccinations, god kills a kitten.

The news needs way less hotness, fast. That’s why I’m into NewsCred, it’s the Digg-shaped anti-Digg. It’s not about what’s hot. It’s about what’s good.

NewsCred\'s credit and discredit buttons

Jeff Jarvis completely disagrees:

I think these folks are attacking the problem from the wrong perspective. They’re trying to play whack-a-mole with credibility and identify all the bad stuff — just as news people, long accustomed to packaging the world in a pretty box with a bow on top, keep wanting to kill every bad comment on their sites. They’ll fail.

All social apps need to get the secret sauce just right — and most totally fail. Only time will tell if NewsCred has legs, but hell, even if it ain’t perfect, they’re at least barking up the right tree.

(For several examples of new media journalism that’s barking up the wrong tree, check out the DayLife Developer Challenge winners. They were made by lovely people I’m certain, so, sorry for being a hater, but dang — it’s just a bunch of shiny shiny.)

NewsCred is trying to solve a real problem: the disaffected news audience. Yes, this encourages readers to be haters, but they can also give props to the good stuff. Journalism has a credibility problem largely because journalists are producing lots of crap. We need to be vetted.

Zed Shaw says “The Internet needs identity, reputation, and retribution.” Readers know who we are, and rely on our reputations, but comments and letters to the editor are hardly retribution. If we publish junk, we should get buried.

Bring on the hate. No more kittens have to die.

6 thoughts on “Hate, props, and hotness: restoring journalism’s credibility

  1. Interesting idea, but NewsCred ultimately fails. Credibility is not synonymous with popularity, and users voting on “truthiness” is more the former than the latter. Credibility is earned in the abstract over time, not won through some kind of popularity contest. It is fundamental to an organization’s methods. I suspect this is why newscred excludes bloggers like Drudge, who by NewsCred’s measure would be among (if not the) most credible news sources on the web. (I also find it odd that they find Fake Steve Jobs?!? to have enough baseline credibility to include it in their list of blog sources…but that’s another discussion I guess.)

    I agree that there is a problem needing a solution, I just don’t think NewsCred is it.

  2. I’ve gotten some heat about this post — maybe it’s worth re-framing the question. Instead of “will NewsCred work?” how about “does journalism’s credibility problem need a drastic solution?”

    I agree that credibility is best built from experience over time, but that knowledge is locked away in the minds of readers. And in the age of the web, where we have thousands if not millions of sources of information, isn’t it useful to have a place where it’s written down publicly?

    Is it arrogant to deride NewsCred as a popularity contest? When I buy a digital camera, I pay close attention to the user ratings at Digital Photography Review. When I buy anything on Amazon, I always read at the reviews.

    Why don’t I deserve the same when selecting a news source? I’m not choosing between the two local papers. How am I to select between The Irish Times and The Jerusalem Post? I need to find context in the cacophony.

    We’ll see how they do. Maybe NewsCred sucks, but they’ve found an itch that needs scratching. If anybody’s got a better idea on how to tackle this, let’s talk. We can build it.

  3. Fascinating post, and intriguing comments.

    @Aron – Drudge has been a source on NewsCred from day 1. I think you must have just missed it. Fake Steve Jobs is slightly ironic, but so is the Sun and Daily Mirror. If they aren’t quality sources, they will be voted down (as they have been). We just didn’t want to take editorial judgment when it came to source selection since that would defeat the point.

    @Brian – why did you get heat? For having a strong opinion and sticking to it?!

    To both of you, I’m glad you agree that this is a problem that needs fixing. Perhaps NewsCred’s voting system is too simple and we should add granularity. Perhaps we could rate the raters. Lots of possibilities, and we’re always looking for feedback. I just don’t think we should dismiss the news reader’s ability to determine if an article is well written, or fact checker, or biased, or transparent etc. As Brian says, you trust them when buying a book or camera, so let’s try this experiment with news. We’re all ears, and we have a ton of journalists on board who want to help us make this work. As Gandhi said, it’s better to light one candle than curse the darkness!

  4. Hey, Shafqat. Thanks for your thoughts. The source of the heat is that most folks I talk to think NewsCred is a bad idea. I don’t know if it’s an awesome idea, but I figure it’s worth a shot.

    Maybe I’m just an ignorant outsider, but it seems to me that journalism is in such trouble, we should be trying everything to keep it afloat.

Comments are closed.