Last week, NewsTrust teamed up with the Huffington Post's OffTheBus team to organize a 'News Hunt' for good journalism on John McCain. We jointly invited members of HuffPo and NewsTrust communities to evaluate the quality of news and opinion about Senator McCain, his character, his views, and his track record.
The McCain News Hunt took place over a 7-day period, from Monday, June 2 to Monday, June 9 at 9pm ET. Members were invited by email and on both partner sites to find great journalism on this topic, and review some of the recommended stories on NewsTrust's John McCain topic page.
In the course of the News Hunt, we collected some fascinating data - both about the media's news coverage of John McCain, and about ourselves. Here are some of the first results from that exciting project. In coming days, we will feature other reports providing more in-depth findings and commentary about our News Hunt.
Top Rated Stories
During the News Hunt, we reviewed hundreds of news stories and opinion pieces about Senator McCain, from a variety of mainstream and independent sources. Our search yielded 233 rated stories on this topic, based on 1,713 reviews that week (or an average of 7 reviews per story).
Here are some of the highest rated stories on John McCain last week, broken down between news and opinion.
- Adviser Says McCain Backs Bush Wiretaps - New York Times
- Katrina Kerfuffle - FactCheck
- John McCain's Gramm Gamble - Texas Observer
- McCain: I'd Spy on Americans Secretly, Too - Wired
- Soft on Iran - FactCheck
- McCain, spying and executive power: A complete reversal in 6 months - Salon
- McCain Emerges as Master Economic Flip-Flopper - Bloomberg
- Make No Mistake: McCain's a Neocon - Consortium News
- One Historic Night, Two Americas - New York Times
- John McCain's Arab-American problem - Salon
To see more, take a look at the full listing of stories rated during the McCain News Hunt, sorted by rating, or by date.
And if you haven't already, be sure to read our initial observations on some of these stories, in our first update and second update about the McCain News Hunt. In a few days, we will publish more observations about these top rated stories, both here and on our HuffPo blog.
Here's how our McCain stories and reviews break down by content type, media type and publication.
Overall, news stories (news reports, special reports, and news analysis) represented two thirds of the total stories reviewed, as shown here:
News - 155 stories (66%)
Opinion - 79 stories (34%)
The majority of stories reviewed in our News Hunt were from newspapers and online sites, as shown in the graph below. Radio was the least reviewed medium.
A more detailed breakdown by media type shows that newspaper articles were by far the most reviewed stories in our News Hunt, as shown in this table:
* Due to the small sample size of this News Hunt, average ratings are PRELIMINARY and only apply to this limited investigation. They should not be interpreted as a general indication of content quality for each media type above.
In the course of a week, we reviewed stories from 101 individual publications. Here are the top 20 most reviewed publications (news sources with at least 20 reviews and 3 stories).
* Because of the small sample size of this News Hunt, all publication ratings are PRELIMINARY. These ratings only apply to this particular investigation and should not be viewed as an overall indicator of each publication's general work quality.
We all learned a lot about John McCain during this News Hunt, and discovered some great articles, as well as added new publications like PolitiFact and Texas Observer to our source database. We found a lot of good journalism in the most unlikely places, whether from mainstream or independent sources. On average, online sites, wire services, newspapers and blogs were given slightly higher quality ratings -- and TV and radio were rated a bit lower than their non-broadcast counterparts. But these differences are minimal, as good information flows like water throughout our new media landscape.
Besides getting better information about this important news topic, perhaps the greatest benefit of this News Hunt is that it helped thousands of us become more discriminating news consumers. We have also developed a deeper appreciation for good journalism, and have become more engaged as citizens.
Here's what some of our new reviewers had to say about this process:
"What this did for me: I started reading stories and posts with an eye to the criteria of good journalism. It has really raised my awareness getting involved and becoming more informed. I thought I couldn't get more informed." -- Harv Roth
"It's been very exciting to be part of something so important. This goes beyond the Web 2.0 experience because most participants are not performing anonymously but quite the opposite. ... It is exciting to be communicating in the open and it inspires a courtesy and decorum, even if challenged. It appears the good ole' days are yet to come." -- Vincent Caminiti
Meet our new reviewers
Thanks to our partners at Huffington Post, this News Hunt drew more new reviewers than any other NewsTrust partnership this spring. Over 780 HuffPo readers signed up as NewsTrust members, and 300 of them became reviewers. Good for you!
Here at NewsTrust, we believe that transparency promotes a civil dialogue and a broader perspective, based on a deeper understanding of our individual backgrounds. With that in mind, our new members from HuffPo were kind enough to tell us quite a bit about themselves on their member profiles.
A majority of new members from HuffPo are over 35 years of age (82%). They are evenly divided by gender (53% male). They show high levels of education, and 80% have college degrees. About 78% self-identify as left-of-center politically, while 17% identify themselves as moderates.
Our new members from HuffPo were quite productive and posted over 1,600 reviews in one week. As a result, our story ratings for this News Hunt were largely driven by these new members, and often reflect their viewpoints. HuffPo members typically have clear views about republican candidate John McCain and how the media is covering him, as you can see in our story reviews.
When new members sign up for NewsTrust, we encourage them to check their ideology at the door and review news and information based on its own journalistic merits (rather than whether or not we agree with its views). As we have all personally found out, this is no easy task, and it takes practice to get good at it. As we all become more experienced reviewers, we expect our ratings to become more nuanced and our comments more impartial.
We welcome a range of political viewpoints at NewsTrus. To broaden our perspective, we are actively looking for partnerships with established publications that are widely read on the right and center of the political spectrum. If you work in such an organization, and can reach a large audience, we would be interested in discussing a collaboration on future News Hunts. Please contact us by email about media partnership opportunities.
Thanks to our partners and members
It's been a true pleasure to work with our wonderful partners at Huffington Post OffTheBus, especially Amanda Michel, Jay Rosen, Arianna Huffington, Betsy Morgan, Mario Ruiz, Marc Cooper, Paul Berry, John Tomasic, Gabriel Beltrone and the rest of the fine HuffPo community. We thank them all for making this project possible, and look forward to doing more together soon ...
Many thanks as well to our new Off the Bus 10+ reviewers, including our most active contributors:
Paul Peete, Harv Roth, Cat Bemis, Andrew Spencer, Ardent Hollingsworth, Andrew Urban, Randy Morrow, Pamela Rogers, Sandy Stone, Denise Clendening, Jennifer Hageman, Michael Evelyn, Lee Beckom, Max Blum, Richard Riehl, John Bracken, Angie M. Santiago, Tom Maertens, Elaine Meyer, Mark Siet, and Randi Swindel, Jeff Clark, Kyrston Banks, Jan Scott, Peter McManus, Deborah Plummer, Sharon McIntosh and Larry Miller. Kudos to you all for your fine work!
And we're very grateful as well to regular NewsTrust stalwarts Chris Finnie, Patricia L'Herrou, Connie Deady, Jack Dinkmeyer, Dale Penn, Stephen Pizzo, Dwight Rousu, Ann Wilmer, Barry Grossheim, Joel Kulenkamp, Douglas Hord and Derek Hawkins, just to name a few. Once again, you guys rose to the occasion and helped make this News Hunt our best ever -- thank you all!
Last but not least, a big thank you to our world-class NewsTrust team for leading the charge on this project: Beth Wellington, Kaizar Campwala, David Cohn, David Fox and the rest of the gang. We appreciate your going the extra mile to help this project happen.
Check this blog (or our NewsTrust blog on HuffPo) for more findings and commentary about this News Hunt. If you have any questions or comments, please contact us by email or post your feedback on our Suggestions page.
Fabrice Florin, with Kaizar Campwala, Beth Wellington and the NewsTrust Team
UPDATE 2 (6/16): New findings about our John McCain News Hunt
OffTheBus founder Jay Rosen has written a great article about this News Hunt, with insightful observations that shed new light on our initiative:
One of interesting things about the NewsTrust initiative is that is has both emergent and conservative ideas built into it. The news judgment of newsroom priests is dethroned. The people formerly known as the audience take over the “gate,” as it were. But the virtues upheld—accuracy, fairness, evidence, proportion, decency, respect for our intelligence—are the old sturdy ones.
Jay Rosen, associate professor of journalism New York University, founder of NewAssignment.Net, author, Pressthink.org
Jay makes a fascinating point, and says it beautifully: the image of the 'people formerly known as the audience taking over the gate with old virtues' is illuminating ...
(in truly recursive fashion, you can review Jay's article right here on NewsTrust.)
Thanks, Jay, Gabe and Amanda, for this thoughtful report -- and to all our new members, thanks as well for your great reviews and suggestions! Some of the insights from our collective quest will find their way into the next version of our website, due out this fall. Stay tuned for more.
UPDATE 1 (6/15/08) Thanks to Jay Rosen for pointing out a couple discrepancies in the top 10 list above. As a result, we made these changes:
* 'Katrina Kerfuffle' is now the updated title for the FactCheck story formerly known as 'McCain claims he "supported every investigation" into the government's role regarding the hurricane'
* 'Soft on Iran' is now the updated title for 'McCain Distorts Obama's Iran Views' - and its original publication is FactCheck (not Newsweek, which was merely republishing original work from FactCheck).
We regret these errors -- and applaud FactCheck.org for getting two entries in the top 10, a noteworthy accomplishment!