NewsTrust: Assessing Users’ Trust in the News

By Ellyn Angelotti
Interactivity Editor

Journalists have been able to tell if users Digg their work, or even if users think the stories news organizations write are del.icio.us, but now they can find out how much users trust the news they are producing.

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NewsTrust provides new ways for journalists to see what people are saying about their work. It features an additional layer of functionality that lets users review content for journalistic value.

For the next week The Poynter Institute will be teaming up with PolitiFact — a project of Poynter’s St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly — in a partnership with NewsTrust for an online news hunt for stories about Media & Politics. Before you jump in and start submitting and reviewing stories, here’s a debrief on the tools NewsTrust provides.

What is NewsTrust?
NewsTrust is a Web site that lets users evaluate news stories, journalists and news organizations. The site provides a process for enhancing feedback users give to journalists through a five-star rating system and textual feedback. Members get the opportunity to be editors, stirring discussion not on the story being told but rather about the journalism itself.

Since the fall of 2006, Fabrice Florin and a dozen or so advisers, including Poynter Online director Bill Mitchell, have guided the creation of a beta version of NewsTrust. Here are some of the site’s main features:

Stories for review
NewsTrust has 13 topic areas with a handful of subtopics within each group. Each of these areas has its own RSS feed and transplantable widgets. Within a topic area you can see “Top Rated” stories; “Stories for Review” (newly submitted stories that do not yet have enough reviews); and “Today’s Picks” (a dynamically-updated list of the stories with the most reviews and most recent reviews).

Member pages
Each user has a personal page that shares professional and personal information for greater transparency. This information makes it possible to sort and analyze reviews based on specific criteria, such as reviews by journalists with 10 or more years of experience. Member pages also aggregate story reviews from users and member ratings (other members’ rating to reviews).

Each member is ranked and given a member level based on five criteria:
  1. Activity on the site (how many stories a member has reviewed)
  2. Experience in journalism (self-reported)
  3. Ratings from other members
  4. Transparency of the member’s shared information
  5. Validation: NewsTrust checks a member’s validity by verifying basic information and examples of expertise and bias

News Organization pages
Each news organization that has had an article reviewed by NewsTrust members has a profile page with information about the organization (with a little help from Wikipedia); stories from that news organization that are up for review; and an organization’s user rating. Members determine the organization’s political tendencies and its rating, including how much users trust that news source. On their profile page users can tag the organization’s stories based on content and quality and find out more about the organization, including which platform it produces content for, what types of stories it posts (blogs, reports, editorial, etc.), and the authors that have been reviewed.

News hunts
NewsTrust teams up with online publications to “find the best journalism on a certain topic” through an online search. Throughout the week, the NewsTrust community and the selected online publication(s) community submit and review stories using NewsTrust. The NewsTrust team tracks how many stories are submitted (from a cross-section of sources) and shares the top rated stories and key findings on its blog.

How could Poynter use NewsTrust?
Many Poynter faculty and staff have already joined NewsTrust and made suggestions for improvements for future development. During a recent staff meeting we walked through the story review process as a group.

We are also partnering with NewsTrust and PolitiFact to host a news hunt on the topic of “Media & Politics.” During this week-long online event, Poynter and PolitiFact users can sign up for NewsTrust and submit links they find or review stories that fall into the subject area of “Media & Politics.” At the end of the week, we will share the stories with the highest rating (and journalistic value based on NewsTrust criteria) from the articles that are submitted.

In the future, we may post a bookmarklet at the end of our stories, enabling Poynter Online users to easily review stories from our site.

How could journalists use NewsTrust?
– To get feedback. If journalists want feedback about a story, they can post a link to NewsTrust in the “Stories for Review” section. When you post a story “for review,” the NewsTrust community will do just that.

– To find examples of good journalism. If a journalist is looking for credible sources or stories on a given topic, NewsTrust is one option that brings together content on a variety of topics.

How do I get started using NewsTrust?

Visit this sign-up page. It will walk you through the sign-up process. You can then visit the “News from Poynter” page or find stories on your own to review.

Want to review a story? The NewsTrust staff walks you through the process in this video tutorial.

After you have a chance to try out NewTrust, let us know what you think about the site.
* How do you think NewsTrust’s function differs from other online rating sites, such as Digg?
* If your work were to be reviewed on NewsTrust, what kind of feedback would help improve your work as journalist?

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