Close to fifty columns later, 2010 is coming to an end for Regret the Error. I spent this week looking over the interviews and links that I collected in order to tease out the most notable quotes from a year in the life of this column. Below are the results of my digging: a collection of comments that speak to the problems and positive developments that marked the year in accuracy, errors and verification.
Quotes of the Year
One realization for me in 2010 was the need for the average person to greatly improve their news literacy and verification skills. (I wrote about the role that journalists can play in helping make this happen.) The rise of social media and the fragmenting of the news landscape makes it essential for everyone to be able to separate fact from fiction, and critically examine what they see, read and hear.
“With the Internet we have so many people who are not traditional journalists breaking so many stories, so we have to face the fact that it’s no longer just people in the newsroom who are providing the first look at the news. And we need to improve their skills.”
“Are we going to have a world filled with people who pass along urban legends and hoaxes?” Rheingold said, “or are people going to educate themselves about these tools [for crap detection] so we will have collective intelligence instead of misinformation, spam, urban legends, and hoaxes?”
One of my most enjoyable conversations over the past year was with Tom Rosenstiel, the co-author of Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload and the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. His thoughts about the current age of news and information fit well with Rheingold’s views:
We now live in a user controlled media world. People are their own editors, and the ability of the press to function as a gatekeeper over what the public sees, or to force-feed the public what it should know, is over. Our public discourse is now going to be a collaboration between citizens and consumers of information, and the sources from which they get that information. The real gap in the twenty-first century is not between those who have access to the Internet and those who don’t; it’s between those who have skills to navigate the information, and those who are overwhelmed by it and escape that sense of overwhelming by just going to the sources that make them feel comfortable, or to points of view that are comforting and familiar.
I was very encouraged when the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge contest announced that “authenticity” would be one of its four new categories. This means we will likely see some new accuracy/verification/credibility projects emerge next year. I spoke with John Bracken, Knight’s director of digital media, and he explained why this area is seen as important for the News Challenge:
In and around the news industry there is a need for the ability to be able to discern more information about who is speaking and imbue degrees of reliability around what they’re speaking about. Something we all deal with in the course of our everyday lives is determining who is speaking, how much I rely on them and how can I understand who they are and where they’re coming from.
Online is where everything has been going and will continue to be going. It should be the leading edge of this, but it’s very much behind print and broadcast.