Journalists featuring crowd

The third week Knight-Mozilla learning lab Mohamed Nanabhay, Head of Online at Al Jazeera English, and Shazna Nessa, Director of Interactive at the Associated Press in New York delivered insights of the work and workflows of their newsrooms.

For us this is an interesting issue as we do not want to burden editors with even more work. Some of the editors and journalist we talked to feared that Corrigo would ultimately mean more work load – and we take this seriously. Still, we believe Corrigo could be a real enrichment in terms of collaboration between “the users” and the newsroom:

Good collaboration depends on good communication. Having examined the error culture in newsrooms it became clear that journalists have difficulties with admitting errors. That’s nothing special. Nobody likes to say: Sorry, my fault. Because we live in a culture of blame-and-shame. There’s a bit of Nelson in all of us as we love to point a finger on people who made a mistake.

The better way would be to blame the error, not the person who made it. If Corrigo was the place where readers pillory the writers the latter would not accept the new tool and nothing would change.

That’s why Corrigo’s motto is not journalists vs.crowd but it’s journalists ft. crowd.

As we mentioned earlier, “we take the technology of web annotation but limit its use to reporting errors in news articles.” We wish to focus on factual errors. They are “deviations from objective fact” and are therefore called “objective errors” (cf. Blankenburg, 1970:376). By concentrating on those objective errors we leave apart all subjective errors which are subject to numerous debates – which can be continued within the comment threads. This would enable the editor to access reported (factual) errors more quickly.

If someday Corrigo gets really really popular, we will probably have many “potential” errors reported. In order to keep the correction procedure efficient we provide a “traffic light system”. Users who have acquired a certain reputation within Corrigo will have the power to verify errors reported by users with a smaller reputation (e.g. new users). So if there were many errors a day the editor would be able to only concentrate on all red / verified errors.

Last but not least a short note on friday’s lecture. Oliver Reichenstein talked about several web projects his design agency Information Architects had realized over the past years. Among the relaunch of Zeit Online in 2009, which was notably interesting for me. Having worked in Zeit Online’s newsroom as an intern when the “switch was flipped”, it was great to have the designer’s perspective towards it. If you’re interested: Knight-Mozilla learning lab recorded the lecture, and I encourage you to watch it!

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One Response to Journalists featuring crowd

  1. Neil Dawson says:

    Hello Tobias! A fellow MozNewsLab participant here.

    At the MoJo ideas jam I attended (way back in May) my team and I discussed irresponsible media outlets, how their spread of misinformation was harmful and how their apologies or retractions were never given equal status in the paper (for instance, a mistake or outright fabrication on the front page may be retracted, but not on the front page).

    We thought a lot about how these outlets could be ‘named and shamed’ in a very public and perhaps embarrassing way which also ensured its unquestioning readers were made aware of their paper’s negligent behaviour. I like that your tool allows for comparison between different news sites, which also makes a list of the most honest outlets a possibility.

    Many of the errors Corrigo points out may be honest mistakes, but do you think there is any place here for shame? I feel embarrassment and, in a sense, turning an outlets readers against it may be the only way to make it change its deceitful ways – and sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

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