The Growing Importance of Information Found Online
"The CIA may not hold the same respect they once had, but you must admit their intelligence-gathering techniques must still be superior to either yours or mine."
At least, that's what you would think. I mean - it is the "C.I.A." They are an agency of "intelligence," so how they get their information should be legit, right? As it turns out, newspapers are becoming less and less of a research source and the C.I.A. is increasingly turning to the Internet to accumulate information.
So, it turns out your Facebook, YouTube and other social accounts aren't safe from prying eyes. Whether or not that's an invasion of privacy is a separate question. I point this out not to discuss the ethics of it, but to examine the growing shift of finding information online. Regardless of whether you prefer print or online news, you have to admit the tides are changing and more people (and organizations) are turning to their computers to stay informed.
But when we go online we are awash with everything from archived data to user-generated content. I'm writing this while listening to a live discussion at U.C. Berkeley about the future of the newsroom. Perhaps it's because the room is filled with journalists, but the consensus is that the blogosphere can't replace professional journalism in total. I even come from a citizen journalism background, and I agree. Not because citizens can't write the news, but because most have jobs and can only do journalism in their limited spare time.
So the question remains, as the web turns into a compendium of human knowledge, events and thoughts, how can we organize the chaos? Specifically around quality journalism? Could NewsTrust.net be used by larger organizations that are in a constant need of good information?
You might laugh at the thought of the government organizations using Web 2.0 tools like NewsTrust.net, but it's an interesting question. What online tools do government agencies need to adopt? Tools like wikis, blogs and social networks can benefit internal communication, as noted in this NY Times magazine article, "Open source spying." The U.S. patent office is using crowdsourcing to help ease the burden of so many patents pending in what they call the "Peer-to-Patent Project. Good information is out there - it just needs to be found and vetted.
There has been an explosion of content online and it has become so overwhelming that it changes not only how individuals read the news - but how entire organizations stay informed as well. Perhaps one day rating a story on NewsTrust won't just help your own understanding of a news article, it will help inform those in power about what is and isn't quality information.
More and more, people ask "does democracy really need the press?"
I think it does. As does, Kahley Emerson, one of the ASU students that Fabrice Florin met during his recent visit to ASU, where he talked about new media, among other topics. In fact, I think media literacy is becoming increasingly important, especially as the information overload spirals more out of control. So the question is - how can we apply the collective wisdom of users online to help solve this problem? We hope NewsTrust is one of the answers.