Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Readers in Control

How would you like to see in the news? Ever wish that sometimes you could pick what made front-page headlines or what didn’t for that matter? Now, thanks to the Internet, you can because social network news websites are making it possible by allowing users to vote on what they consider news. The article “Who Controls the News? On the Web, You Can” published in the Christian Science Monitor this week reported that:

The Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) decided to find out what the difference between what editors of The New York Times considered a top story as opposed to the readers...

The readers PEJ decided to pole were from three user-driven sites:, Digg and Reddit as well as Yahoo News’s Most Recommended, Most Viewed, and Most E-mailed. The PEJ report mentions that:

In a week when the mainstream press was focused on Iraq and the debate over immigration, the three leading user-news sites were more focused on stories like the release of Apple’s new iPone and that Nintendo had surpassed Sony in net worth.

According to the article while this may generally be seen as more proof that the Internet is corrupting the news and that people aren’t paying attention to the stories that really count, journalist should not go on the ledge over the PEJ report. The main reason is due to the one glaring flaw in the voting which is that it doesn’t account for the age of the visitors to each site. Usually their users are much younger than online readers of tradition media and when you are 25 and single what you consider important is very different from if you were 35 with three kids and a mortgage.

The article still notes that the PEJ study does show that when Web users are given the opportunity, they do make different news choices than professional journalist do and they get their news from very different sources. One example given of the changing face of journalism is
DailySource where Web users suggest what stories should appear on it. Along with traditional news sources, it also features video from sites like YouTube and material from blogs.

The site allows users to submit an article and editors take them into consideration when selecting the top stories. The creator of DailySource, Peter Dunn, a journalist and former media coach and consultant said that:

Instead of relying on the stretch resources of one paper people could get high-quality articles and information from over a thousand publications including daily papers, television network site, newsmagazine, journals, blogs and others. But it’s more than just news. I would love to see these local daily sources become a place where people could find resources and share stories about their communities and share ideas about how to solfe problems...

These types of hybrid news sites as well as social networking sites illustrate the decentralizing power of the Internet where people are no longer content to be told what the “news is”. Today readers have their own minds and their own ideas and they want to share them. Those we are smart will listen and jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon. Readers want to become part of what they are reading. They want to be involved and given the opportunity to interact with everything, including their news.

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