April 12, 2010

Last week we were paid a visit by Mike LaBonte from the website NewsTrust. The site functions as a gathering place for reviewers of journalism to, in theory, weed out the good journalism from the bad, a “wisdom of the masses” kind of rating system. I reviewed three stories concerning Mitt Romney’s stance on health care reform, weather the economy is turning around, and the scandal concerning Father Marcial Maciel with the Catholic Church.

I’ve had a hard time deciding whether I really like the feel of the website or not. On one hand, I quite like the idea behind the website, and I think it provides a pretty thorough way to review a piece of journalism.

On the other hand,one of the problems I come upon with NewsTrust is that I don’t know how it guards against the confirmation-bias you get with people looking to news sources that will simply confirm what they believe for them. If a left-leaning person comes upon a left-leaning story, I don’t see why they aren’t likely to give it a higher rating, and vice-versa with right-leaning people.

Another problem I feel with the site is that, in a way, it feels wonky. Geared to news junkies and people in the business. There’s a gatekeeper mentality to NewsTrust, and if there’s one thing the exodus of news consumers to the web and television has taught us it’s that people do not want a gatekeeper anymore. With NewsTrust, I don’t feel like I’m getting a true collection of opinion from the masses, I feel more like I’m getting the opinion of a collection of concerned individuals who have taken 10-20 minutes of their time to read a story and really consider things like its fairness and quality. In one sense, that’s a positive. In another, it feels a lot like the old way of doing things. In that sense, it’s almost too involved.

I guess it leads me to wonder what NewsTrust wants to be. A true collection of a mass of opinions on a given piece of journalism, or a gathering of what essentially amounts to secondary editors. I don’t think as  currently constructed it appeals to the common folks. I think if it were to do that it’d need to be pared down. But I also understand that keeping it the way it is now will, in all likelihood, deliver much higher quality reviews and much more thoughtful opinions. Because, let’s be honest, as comment boards have shown us, the general masses can be a bit rough around the edges at times.

I think it’s a worthy endeavor. I’m just not sure I can pinpoint where I think it’s headed, or to what purpose it is truly serving.