April 5, 2005
There’s been a fair amount of hand-wringing since the start of the Age of Blogs about accuracy. How on earth do we trust anything we read on the Internet? Bloggers can say anything!
Just this year, there was a conference on blogging, journalism, and credibility.
Then there’s been some hand-wringing over the fact that you have to use phrases like “steady downward trend” to describe the recent credibility ratings of newspapers.
I’ve got a proposal.
Imagine: you come across an article on the Web purporting to be journalism or contain elements of journalism. So you cruise on over to StraightenTheRecord.org (or whatever) and you search for the name of the text’s author or publication. Up pops a screen listing all the corrections made on articles by that author or in that publication.
But you’re a tad underwhelmed. You had caught an error of fact in the document you were reading that isn’t listed on this page.
So you log in to the site and edit the record (it being some sort of a wiki), adding your correction to the stack.
The idea is like a mishmash of OpenSecrets.org and FactCheck.org for journalism. The site would make no distinctions between labels like “blogger,” “journalist,” “podcaster,” or “Googling monkey.” If you produce a record that you claim is a work of reported fact, then someone can come to this site and fact-check your ass.
I imagine the wiki being viewable by anyone, but editable only by members, so people would be required to take some ownership of their corrections. Membership, of course, would be free to all.
Seeds of this can be found in the nascent adopt-a-journalist movement that started to coalesce in the run-up to last year’s election. And Poynter’s Larry Larsen suggested something very much like this to me last year; he said every reporter should have a page listing all his or her corrections.
Today, The New York Times printed five corrections; and I’m guessing the paper featured many more mistakes — misspellings, misstatements, misrepresentations — that were reported only in someone’s living room. How awesome would it be if there were a centralized spot for the record to be corrected?
Ditto for blogs. Out-of-control rumors might spawn fewer inaccurate tidbits of info if each person who repeated the rumor knew she might be adding a blot to her record.