Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Can Journalism Warning Labels Create Better Journalism?

Think of Journalism Warning Labels as intelligent tags that can help readers gauge the trustworthiness of traditional news coverage. Two guys in particular, Tom Scott and Eric Donovan have tried to develop Journalism Warning Labels in physical and online forms respectively.

Tom Scott's Print labels are titled as follows: [notes in brackets are mine]

1. This article is based on unverified, anonymous tipoff.
2. Stats/Survey results and/or quotations were sponsored by a PR Company. [Prevelant in Indian Press]
3. This article is basically just a press release, copied and pasted. [Most Business stories in all the papers]
4. Medical claim in this research have not been confirmed by peer-reviwed research.
5. To meet a deadline, this article was plagiarized from another source. [Prevelant in Indian Press - all the major brands do it]
6. This article contains unsourced, unverified information from Wikipedia.
7. Journalist does not understand the subject they are talking about. [Prevelant in Indian Press - especially articles and TV shows about gadgets and technology ]
8. Journalists hiding their own opinion by using phrases like "some people claim". [Prevelant in Indian Press - especially in political coverage and consumer stories]
9. To ensure future interviews with subject, important questions were not asked. [Prevelant in Indian Press - especially in political and business journalism]
10. Includes content written by [insert any highly biased writer/journalist].

There there is the Newscrud project by Eric Donovan for news website:

1. Statistics misrepresentation
2. Opinon masked as fact
3. Medical claims
4. PR as news [Example: All the news items on News TV aboout latest movies]
5. Hidden motives [Most news channels, newspapers and political/business journalists are guilty]
6. Re-hash of other article [Newspapers are actually huge Rewriting Factories]
7. Plane stew pig [the bland writing we see in Plane magazines and and all the supplements.]

How can we take this idea forward? The world of traditional journalists is often said to be intolerant and insular. Journalists can criticize whoever they want, but they don't take criticism well themselves.

In the short term, these two projects will get some heavy linkage on the internet, some condescending words will be uttered by others, dismissing the idea as 'humorous warning labels', and that will be the end of it. Back to the old ways, then.

This idea needs a collective push. Like, a Digg for Journalism Warning Labels. What do you think?

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