Fair, thorough, enterprising and in context - that's what we're looking for in the journalism we read, isn't it? At a time when shallow ranting takes up so much space in public discourse, a new media evaluation technology offers hope, inspiration and is a lot of fun to use.
NewsTrust is a media technology organization funded by the Omidyar Network and MacAurthur Foundation. Yesterday it launched a personalized news filtering tool called MyNews. The tool helps users review the quality of journalism from all over the web and discover high-quality content they and their friends might enjoy. A light-weight, crowd-sourced, personalized recommendation engine that adds value on top of existing content? Sounds like our kind of app!
When reading content from around the web through NewsTrust, the user is presented with a well-designed interface through which to review the quality of journalism in question. Users are prompted to evaluate stories based on things like how well they were sourced, whether both sides of a controversy were explained and how enterprising the story was. Short and long reviews are supported and it's easy to review a story in less than 30 seconds if you feel so inclined.
The ability to post links to Twitter and Facebook with a single click means that users who already share articles around social networks have an opportunity to pause briefly and add another layer of value by using NewsTrust.
The new MyNews product released yesterday leverages that network of reviewers to draw in a stream of high-quality links from around the web, on particular topics. In addition to NewsTrust reviewers, the service also delivers stories discovered and vetted algorithmically and it pulls links shared by your friends on Facebook and Twitter into the NewsTrust ecosystem. It's one thing to get a vote of apparent approval from friends sharing links on social networks, it's another to peruse those links through a lens of community grading for journalistic quality.
The end result is a personalized news reader populated with generally high-quality topical stories that have been reviewed by other readers. It's a useful product and one that would work well as a mobile app, where browsing through lots of content of variable quality is less appealing.
NewsTrust and MyNews aren't for everyone, though. Only so many people will be interested in a news consumption interface so closely wedded to review activities. Many people will, no doubt, bristle at the prospect (or reality) of amateurs reviewing the quality of professional journalistic product. Some will find the site too left-leaning for their tastes. (Though it tries hard not to be.)
Many people will enjoy MyNews, though, and we suspect everyone who follows social software in general will find this project particularly interesting. Projects like this may or may not be able to change the way news producers operate, but the news consumers who use it will likely find MyNews a helpful way to enrich their time on an otherwise all-too often low-quality web of news content.