Citizen journalists and citizen critics

An American FCC Commissioner since 2001, Michael Copps opposes media consolidation. He believes it has gone too far and thinks 70% of Americans agree. Common complaints allege that concentration quiets the voices of diversity and that monopolistic operators are inevitably loyal to business interests ahead of public interests.

Various reactive movements try to balance the landscape and make media more accessible. Some, like Google Blogger, provide online publishing facilities to almost all comers. Others, like NewsTrust, provide opportunities for readers to examine, evaluate and rate the works of journalists.I am a founding member of NewsTrust and was fairly active for a time, particularly during the U.S. 2008 election campaign. I enjoyed the experience and learned from it. To write a credible review of a legitimate journalist’s work, I had to be a much more attentive reader, aware of elements used by writers to massage, distort or report information. In fact, I gained respect for numerous main stream and new media writers who consistently present high quality work. Yet, there is a clinging miasma arising, occasionally from well founded sources, but mostly from the putrescent underbelly of right wing propaganda machines – and, yes, I include Faux News there.

NewsTrust examines journals from many parts of the world but its audience is American and the website reflects that fact. It is a noble experiment, providing opportunities for citizens to participate intelligently in the news media by evaluating and commenting on published work. It also helps serious readers winnow literary chaff that is presented endlessly throughout North America. I suspect a similar site, focused on Canadian media, would be worthwhile.

The following paragraphs explain the organization’s roots and are extracted from their website.

A nonprofit news network to promote quality journalism, NewsTrust helps readers make more informed decisions. The website features quality news and opinions, rated by members, based on quality, not just popularity. NewsTrust reviewers evaluate each story against core principles of journalism, such as fairness, accuracy, context and sourcing.

Founded in 2005 and based in Mill Valley, California, NewsTrust is a nonprofit public benefit corporation with an educational purpose. It was started to address growing problems of information overload, misinformation and mistrust on the Internet, caused by the rise of opinion news and amateur journalism, as well as media consolidation and newsroom cutbacks.

The NewsTrust community is growing rapidly and includes news consumers, experienced journalists, educators and students — with over 10,000 registered members to date. Partners include leading media organizations like PBS, Scientific American, Huffington Post, Global Voices, Link TV, the Council on Foreign Relations — as well as journalism teachers and students at Stanford University, Northeastern, Stony Brook, University of Nevada and Arizona State University.

NewsTrust has received a substantial multi-year grant from the MacArthur Foundation, to expand the social news network and bring it to a broader community. They have also received support from a wide range of donors, including the Sunlight Foundation, the Mitch Kapor Foundation, the Ayrshire Foundation and the Tides Foundation, as well as Craig Newmark (Craigslist), Doug Carlston (Public Radio International), Hap Perry, Fabrice Florin and other private donors.

Categories: Journalism

1 reply »

  1. Mr. Farrell–

    Thanks for the review of NewsTrust! Your point about the tool being a good teacher of the definition of good journalism is well taken. I find that to be true all the time.

    Hope to see you around the site sometime in the future!

    —Joey Baker
    Communications Intern, NewsTrust


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