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Reviewing a review on a review


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Carlos Saucedo (the fellow on the video above) wrote a review on  Newstrust.net ,  and while doing so, he referred to me as a “representative from NewsTrust.net”, relying on my own post reviewing that website. And though he was innacurate, i think he raises a few good questions.

But first of all, let me clarify a thing or two: i’m not a “representative from NewsTrust.net”. The text Carlos refers to, is my own review for JournalismEnterprise.com, a project created by Paul Bradshaw. I don’t know where Carlos Saucedo got the idea i was representing NewsTrust, since we can read at the top of the post “Review: Newstrust.net – Another JE review“. But it probably slipped his attention.

But what Carlos does well is to question the principles of websites like Spinspotter.com and Newstrust.net and the ethics of journalism. His point is: why should some website proclaim that it has the best unbiased juornalism, if things should already be that way? That was the question i did when i reviewed the website. My findings? Those projects rely in the power of the crowd to pick the best articles out of the news cloud, which may not be always right, but it’s far more democratic than leaving that choice to a small bunch of people. Added to the crowd factor, i verified that the “people in charge of NewsTrust are experienced, reputable professionals, which gives extra credibility to the project.” They have journalism backgrounds, and a past of civic engagement. NewsTrust is the marriage between those two sides, to provide the best news chosen by the people, for the people. Do i think it’s an interesting idea? Yes i do. Do i believe it’s perfect? Not at all, but it’s good, and it is also a good example of how things work now in news distribution: we no longer rely in just one brand, but we also follow the recommendations of others, we go to one website to find views and news from different sources. The fragments all glued together by ourselves and the crowd, to build our own news reality, instead of the monolithic model that ran for decades.

He also questions ethics: “Has the field of journalsim changed so much that no one can be trusted anymore?  I guess we are all to assume that journalism and ethics in the same sentence is an oxymoron.” He’s being naive, of course. Or he never saw Fox or any other TV station, radio, newspaper, website pursuing a biased perspective. No, that wouldn’t happen in the United States. Journalism is powerful, because it shapes people’s perception of reality, and that is what rules people’s actions, or inertia, for that matter. Journalism is not always ethical. I’m sorry to say that out loud because it can break a few hearts, but that’s the truth. Most journalists try to do things right  though (i hope not to be the naive one now). And it has never been so powerful, because we can know in seconds about something that happened across the world, and there has never been such a great load of information. Should we leave the choice of the important news to the crowd? Well, what makes news is something that will affect the largest number of people. If the crowd doesn’t know what is important for them, who will? And if the crowd can choose from the noise, why won’t they? Maybe there aren’t many people with the proper training to be journalists. But even the “respected news organizations that have prefessional experience in journalism” must be questioned by the amateurs, because they are the destination, but no longer the end of the line of the news cycle, because now the amateurs can ask, comment, give their input back.

Unlike Carlos, I have journalistic experience. Not as much as i wanted to, but enough to recognize that this is all grey area. Carlos admits: “I have no professional or student experience in journalism whatsoever!”. And he is not the paradigm of impartiality: “As the ardent activist I was on campus, I plan to continue my enthusiasm for change into the field of journalism.  The lack of diversity in American newsrooms is a call for drastic change.” So he has his own agenda. And for what i’ve seen, Carlos has little knowledge of how things work nowadays. But now i’m just being biased.

I admire enthusiastic young journalists who believe that this job is fitted to induce a change for better in the world. Carlos is one of those, and i am too, apart from the fact i’m not as young as he is. The role of journalism is to present facts so that people can exercise their rights: the right to vote in their favorite candidate, the right to demonstrate against or for public decisions, the right to be aloof.

What i liked about the post Carlos wrote is that he is willing to pose the questions that bother him, and makes them public for the common good: “Are we so idle nowadays that we need a site to tell us what is bias and what isn’t in news?” Well, Carlos, sometimes we do, but i like the  question, because it’s thought-provocative . I wish the best for him, and i hope he keeps enthusiastic about journalism and the power it has to improve things, but i’ll leave one piece of advice: get the facts straight before publishing them, or you’ll be paying journalism a poor effort.

Alexandre Gamela, who appears to be a representative from NewsTrust.net, wrote in a blog that the online site provides “quality news feeds, news literacy tools and a trust network to help citizens make informed decisions about democracy.”
Well, isn’t that what the press is for?  Has the field of journalsim changed so much that no one can be trusted anymore?  I guess we are all to assume that journalism and ethics in the same sentence is an oxymoron.
Are we so idle nowadays that we need a site to tell us what is bias and what isn’t in news?
You would think that respected news organizations that have prefessional experience in journalism, would have the capacity to produce unbiased, high-quality reporting and not be questioned by amateurs.

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