NewsTrust was created to help people find good journalism online.
From 2006 to 2012, our nonprofit social news network offered a feed of quality news and opinions from mainstream and independent sources, based on ratings from our reviewers, which included both experienced journalists and news consumers.
NewsTrust editors curated the site daily, posting news stories for review on a variety of local topics. Community members were invited to submit and rate news stories of their choice and discuss them with each other and with our staff. Experienced editors then picked the best stories to feature on our news hub and partner feeds. Though our service was national in scope, this process worked particularly well at the local level, as we found during our NewsTrust Baltimore pilot.
We invited the public to rate the news based on core principles of journalism. Reviewers used our online review guide to evaluate the accuracy, fairness, context and sourcing of news stories. Their reviews were also rated by our editors, and weighted based on their level of expertise. In the process, we helped millions of citizens get better informed about important public issues, as well as become more discriminating and engaged news consumers.
Our social news review service was created and led by multimedia innovator Fabrice Florin, with support from the MacArthur Foundation, Omidyar Network and Open Society Foundations, among others. We also partnered with many respected news organizations, such as the Baltimore Sun, FactCheck.org, PBS NewsHour, USA Today and the Washington Post. Our media partners invited their journalists and audiences to review the news with us on selected topics, and many included our feeds on their sites.
We also worked with a range of colleges and high schools, such as the French American International School, University of California, the University of Maryland and Stanford University. These educational partners used NewsTrust to help their students develop literacy skills by reviewing the news, earning certificates for their work.
Our findings suggest that this type of community-based interaction between journalists, schools and volunteers improved the way people find their news and helped them become more informed citizens. NewsTrust's collaborative evaluation tools, combined with curation by our experienced staff and media partners and the support of algorithmic ratings, proved particularly effective for surfacing good journalism on important issues. And teachers and students alike found our service useful for helping the next generation of news consumers learn to separate fact from fiction.
NewsTrust is no longer available online. The Poynter Institute acquired NewsTrust in 2012, but could only support the service for a couple years. To enable others to freely use our software platform for their own use, we open-sourced our Ruby on Rails code, which can be found here on Github.
NewsTrust brought together a diverse community of citizens, journalists, students and educators to work with us on this multifaceted social news project. We are deeply grateful to them all.
Building a social network is a team sport, which requires a wide range of skills. For this project, we were very lucky to work with a world-class team, including: Wes Boyd, Kaizar Campwalla, Doug Carlston, David Cohn, Gin Ferrara, Adam Florin, David Fox, Dan Gillmor, Terry Gamble, Tish Grier, Mary Hartney, Derek Hawkins, Andrew Hazlett, Jon Mitchell, Evelyn Messinger, Rory O’Connor, Howard Rheingold, Subramanya Sastry, Debra Shelfo, Kim Spencer and Caleb Waldorf, to name but a few. Together, they delivered a high-quality service with modest resources; we all enjoyed a close collaboration and learned a lot from each other.
We were also privileged to collaborate with so many great partners and funders who generously contributed time and resources to participate in our experiment. We hope that they got as much from it as we did and that our findings will help them and other communities discover even better ways to find and share good local journalism.