A new website aims to help the press, readers and sources find out more about one another through profiles that index a journalist's work and background. The idea is to make accountability a norm, and to demystify the media and press for the regular Joe and Jane
If you've ever wondered about the face behind the byline of the story you read in the paper, ewsTransparency (.com) could soon be your answer. Founded by Ira Stoll, editor of FutureOfCapitalism (.com) and former managing editor, New York Sun, the website was launched last week. Over an email interview, Stoll explains that the site is meant to "provide more transparency and the ability to manage reputations online, therefore improve journalistic quality and trust between readers and journalists."
If you've always wanted to know more about your favourite TV anchor,
NewsTransparency may just be your answer
Much like Wikipedia, the site is user-driven. Journalists are encouraged to upload and edit profiles, which include everything from their biodata to links to their articles and even their social networking information. "I think journalism has too long lacked the sort of accountability mechanisms that are more common in other fields. If you are a politician and do badly, you are voted out of office. If you are a money manager and lose money, people withdraw funds from you, your bonus is reduced, or you get fired. But bad journalism often doesn't even get labelled as such, and as a result, polls in America show, journalists are pretty unpopular," he says.
But doesn't the freedom to edit encourage misrepresentation? "There are dangers of misrepresentation and inaccuracy in articles written by professional journalists, too. The entries are moderated by an editor before they appear. If there are misrepresentations, the site has mechanisms to allow users to fix them immediately by replacing them with the correct information, which is better than most newspapers do," he feels.
As a former journalist himself, Stoll also hopes that the site, which has already alphabetically indexed a few hundred profiles, helps people to understand that "the press is not just one undifferentiated mass, but human beings." He continues, "I think a certain degree of caution and scepticism on the part of readers and sources in dealing with the press is healthy and warranted. But I hope NewsTransparency will help consumers differentiate between the journalists worth trusting (and those who aren't)."
Next up could be fields for financial disclosure by journalists (what stocks they own or other financial investments their family has), a field for what country a journalist is based in and what is their home country, and a field that identifies their primary current employer.
"For readers, give them a place to go to for background about a journalist which helps them understand where the journalist is coming from. For sources, give them a neutral territory to go to, to complain about an inaccurate story or an irresponsible journalist or to praise an accurate story or an exemplary journalist. For journalists, a place to receive and respond to reader and source feedback and to share information to make themselves and their colleagues less mysterious, more transparent, and more accessible."
-- Ira Stoll, founder, Newstransparency.com on what he hopes hope News transparency will achieve