NewsTrust uses an interesting concept to try and give readers a better idea of what is reliable journalism and what should be taken with a grain of salt. People are able to rate each story and review the story based on several criteria, such as how factual it is, how well written, how fair the story is, etc. There are staff reviewers and the public can review stories. Initially I was skeptical about this site, but after hearing from the founder of NewsTrust my opinions have changed a bit.
NewsTrust is a journalism watchdog. Reporters will have to be more careful to put out a superior product if they do not want to get a low rating. The rating system works well when it is being done by professionals, however, too much stock should not be put in the reviews of a random John Doe. Often times, these commenters have their own agenda and are just not as knowledgeable on the topic as the reporter. People like to rag on journalists if they can anonymously. That’s why we should not let anonymous comments truly affect our interpretation of a story.
The founder of NewsTrust told us that they don’t pay to have stories on their site. I think that a main appeal of NewsTrust, for journalists and newspapers, is that it may drive more traffic to their stories. Whether the comments are constructive or not, people like to have discussions under stories. If there is lively discussion around a story, more people will chime in. It is better for business than it is for journalism.
I’m not sure that I would change the design of the Web site because it is set up well for what the founders were trying to do. It is a concept that is better said then done. If the stories were all reviewed by professionals, then perhaps it would do more to further journalism. It is novel to play around with at first, but even after knowing about this Web site I will still go to the Baltimore Sun Web site for news over the NewsTrust site.
I do think that they can expand this to other markets; if it works in Baltimore the same should be true in other cities. It could be particularly successful in Washington D.C., a city where people are eager to voice their opinions and there are a lot of publications.
I wonder what percentage of people who use this site read the reviews before they read the story, and if their opinion of the story is affected right from the outset.