Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rant on Rating Journalism

In what seemed like a thinly veiled effort to boost user numbers for start-up site, my classmates and I were asked to sign up for an account at this site, then rate three news stories on the same topic. (I chose the earthquake in Chile.)

I believe rating news is one activity where the truth will not necessarily emerge from the collective knowledge of average citizens, which seems to be the point of Newstrust. Also, I don't think this knowledge could even be gleaned, as I don't believe each story reviewed will ever get more than a handful of reviews, because, as it always is with news, what was news yesterday and worthy of rating is old news today, and not as interesting a read.

This inherent news problem makes the goal of having the cream rise to the top, or however the saying goes, impossible as the average rating of a certain story will only reflect the polarized, subjective views of a few people.

Even as a person going through training to be a better journalist, I wouldn't suggest my ratings of certain stories as particularly helpful or even necessarily reflective of an unobtainable "true" rating determined by mashing together ratings of several people.

A few problems I had with the site:
1. If you're rating a story that has already been rated, it's not too far fetched to imagine you might be influenced by the rating presented when determining your own.
2. Search results for stories rated on the site are terrible--it'll be difficult to find a story on a topic you'd like to know more about by searching for it on NewsTrust.
3. The banner that allows users to rate stories only appears on the page where the original rater posted the URL. If you click to "read more," and the story opens on another page, the NewsTrust banner disappears and you can't rate the story from there.

It's a noble goal to want to make people more media literate. And forcing people to think about what they've read and why they feel it was or was not informative is a good way to do that. But I think the people that are going to take the time to do that are probably not the people who most need to be taught about media literacy.

It's a great idea--the act of rating a news story should help a reader become more media savvy. However I do not think anything of great significance will be revealed in the collective ratings themselves, as the stories being rated are constantly shifting according to the daily news cycle, and will therefore never have enough ratings to reflect some kind of collective knowledge about what is good or bad journalism.

And thus, I end my journalism rant.

Brought to you by Dead Tired, an after effect of competing in your first triathlon of the season...even if you only did 2/3 of it...and it was a sprint...

More on the Treeathlon to come!

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