*Update – my NewsTrust member page can be found here.*
In the past week I spent some time evaluating articles on NewsTrust.net, a website meant to aid online news consumers in the quest for good journalism by posting and critiquing stories.
Overall, I like what I saw on NewsTrust and think that if the project can expand its membership beyond hardcore newsies, the site could be a definitive voice in online news coverage.
Like most crowdsourcing projects, NewsTrust relies on a large community to sift through information and pass judgment on articles and their authors before the information becomes irrelevant. Because these articles are so time-sensitive, a larger, more active group of reviewers could go a long way to ensure journalistic gems from smaller media outlets are not overlooked.
As it stands, the 20,000-plus reviewing community largely gravitates towards mainstream news like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, rather than smaller local publications where readers could most benefit from an uninvolved third party reviewer.
Additionally, people tend to review websites they agree with and often pass over reviewed articles from news sites they would not normally read, creating some minor bias issues since unpopular news platforms face less reader scrutiny. As an experiment, I posted a review for a profile from MSNBC and an AP report posted on FoxNews. Not surprisingly, my MSNBC article had a lot more follow up reviews compared to the Fox report.
While the uneven focus of reviews is an issue for the site in its current state, I feel like this problem will decline as the number of users making regular reviews grows and the community becomes more active and diverse.
As a journalist, I see NewsTrust as becoming a handy source for both reviewing my own work as well as helping me find reliable information of past events which I may be pushed into the middle of and asked to cover. For example, if I were to cover the school board in a city I have just transferred to, I would want to not only read up on past events, but do so with the comfort that what I am reading has been established as fair, unbiased coverage before I start forming my own questions.
In the past five years I have spent studying to become a journalist, I have learned how to crank out obituaries, nail difficult interviews and create some semblance of order in my notes so that I can hit a deadline without a major cardiac episode.
Northeastern University has prepared me for most challenges I expect to face as a working reporter except for two: how to handle the constant pulls of my own biases and (more importantly) how I can make it as a paid reporter in a world where content is becoming less and less of a commodity.
It is those final two questions I hope to address in my final project by interviewing Lynn, Massachusetts-based media critic Bob “Moviebob” Chipman. Chipman has a number of online commentary series catering to movie and video game fans on the Escapist Network, as well as a personal blog which combine for an astounding number of hits every month.
Considering my concerns as I enter the working world, I hope to interview Chipman and learn how he has been able to make the internet work for him. As far as I can tell, he is exclusively a web presence but has been able to make a living by delving into the topics he feels strongest about and works to maintain his own point of view without giving in to “fanboyism,” the geek culture equivalent of bias.
Since much of his subject matter is for better or worse aimed at a younger audience but his online rants tend to aim for an older crowd, I want to learn how he balances these two audiences without dumbing down his material and more importantly how he handles his interactions with his rather volatile community online viewers.
In addition, I would like to learn how he became affiliated with the Escapist Network, what his role is in the long-term strategy of the website and get a first hand account of how to create such a strong online presence that keeps clicks coming in week after week.