This blog post about our NewsTrust Baltimore local news experiment was written by community manager Gin Ferrara and originally published on our Baltimore blog on February 11, 2011. It is republished here for the benefit of our national community.
As a media educator since the mid-90s, I often find that students come to the class with a very solid worldview and assess the quality of news less on its journalistic merit than on how closely it aligns with their own beliefs.
I've noticed the same is true for me as I get older -- and it's easy to read the news seeking reinforcement for what I already think.
That is why the review process here at NewsTrust Baltimore is so great: it shakes up our expectations, and helps us look at journalism with a less jaded eye. By taking the time to break down a news story into its parts: the facts, the balance, the sources, the relevance, we give ourselves a chance to think more clearly about the news, and learn how to separate fact from opinion. In the end, we hope, we will become better informed and more thoughtful news consumers (and, for some of us, news producers).
This image does a great job of illustrating how easy it can be to jump to conclusions!
Image from the book "unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation," by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson
Here are some ways to help you think differently as you evaluate stories:
Review stories using the "full rating" form. This is a selection in the drop-down menu at the top-right of the review form. Roll up your sleeves and dig in! With 10 thoughtful questions about the quality of the journalism, you will be analyzing the news like a pro in no time.
Leave a note. Sometimes justifying your observations is difficult. By leaving a note explaining why the story is good (or not so good) journalism, you help make your case. It's possible you may also discover that your review needs to be updated to reflect your notes (this happens to me often!). I see the notes as a way to keep ourselves honest: if you are willing to say it, then you can stand behind your rating. (If you have a personal opinion of the subject matter of the article, use the 'Comments' tab for your thoughts.)
Read and comment on other reviews. We're working as a team to find the best local journalism. Even though we're all at separate desks, by commenting on (and rating) each other's reviews, we are collaborating on this experiment, and building a broader discourse on the journalism and news of our community.