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1/4/2007
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NewsTrust Aims To Go Deeper Than Digg

The site is looking to judge news articles online by quality, rather than simple popularity, with a more finely grained evaluation of news stories than one gets from the gladiatorial thumbs-up, thumbs-down votes by which stories live and die on Digg.

A little over a month ago, NewsTrust began a public beta test, hoping to help Internet users find good journalism online. This might seem like reinventing the wheel, given the excess of news aggregation sites like Digg, Findory, Newsvine, and Reddit, not to mention Google News, Yahoo News, bookmark sharing sites like Del.icio.us, and millions of blogs that point to news stories.

But NewsTrust isn't necessarily looking for the most popular stories online; it aims to present the best journalism. "Because journalism is so important for democracy, for citizens to make informed decisions," explains Fabrice Florin, executive director of NewsTrust, "we want to offer a way to identify quality journalism based on standards other than popularity. That's not to say that popularity doesn't have a role, but as a primary measurement, it weakens the effectiveness of the material that get promoted."

For Florin, a former journalist who spent twenty-five years at technology companies like Apple and Macromedia, this is an issue of critical civic import. "I really think that the mission of this initiative has to remain nonprofit, even though it makes the job a lot harder for us," he explains. "That's partly because we really want to put the public interest first, rather than the shareholders interest, and we couldn't do that in a for-profit."

Whether or not you share Florin's view about the necessity of a vibrant Fourth Estate as a safeguard for democracy, it's clear that NewsTrust and Digg, for example, promote different types of stories.

The top story on NewsTrust at the time this article was written was "Majority of Americans View Media Coverage of Iraq as Inaccurate." The top story on Digg in the last 24 hours at the time this article was written was "Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before I Switched to OS X."

NewsTrust, in essence, aims to counter the fascination of the inclusive crowd -- picture Britney Spears on a Linux-based iPod sold by Microsoft -- with the wisdom of the vetted crowd.

NewsTrust's news-rating system is based on 10 inputs supplied by users: recommendations, balance, context, evidence, fairness, importance, information, sources, style, and trust. The result is a much more finely grained evaluation of news stories than one gets from the gladiatorial thumbs-up, thumbs-down votes by which stories live and die on Digg.

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