The New Gatekeepers

Here’s what we are doing with Galley, our discussion forum app

February 18, 2019

As some of you may know, CJR took over the management and direction of a discussion forum website/app called Galley late last year, and we have been doing our best to turn it into a place where people—not just journalists, but anyone—can have thoughtful, meaningful discussions with each other on a platform that cares about treating people with trust and respect (in other words, not Twitter). The kinds of topics we are interested in range from hard-core journalistic issues like the death of objectivity or plagiarism in a popular book, all the way to broader discussions about the impact of technology on how we understand the world. And we would also like Galley to be a place where journalists and non-journalists alike can help each other, instead of just talking past each other as is so often the case.

So for example, we currently have an open Galley thread aimed at those who have been laid off from BuzzFeed, Vice News, HuffPost, Gannett and other media outlets in the wave of cuts that have taken away more than 2,000 jobs in the past month. We wanted to provide a place where journalists who are out of work could post their details, links to their work or their LinkedIn profiles, etc., and it soon took on an additional role as employers also started posting job openings on the thread as well.

We also have a thread about whether media companies should be doing more to reinvent comments or think of new ways to capture reader engagement and feedback, something that is very much in line with what we are trying to do with Galley.

The latter thread was started by one of our guest editors, Mark Coatney, the head of digital news at Forbes. Other guest editors—who help start and guide discussions on the platform—have included Raju Narisetti, former head of Gizmodo Media Group and now a Columbia professor who runs the Knight-Bagehot fellowship program, and Jihii Jolly, a former community editor with News Deeply. One of the things we would very much like to do with Galley is bring in as wide a range of journalists and non-journalists as possible, to ensure that we don’t create the kinds of echo chambers and silos that so many journalistic discussions turn into, so if you don’t fit the typical description of a mainstream journalist please sign up and/or get in touch.

We would also like to use Galley to talk about some of the technology issues that are impacting both media and the world at large, such as Facebook’s attempts to cut down on the amount of misinformation it spreads while also denying that it is a media company, or YouTube’s role in creating a disinformation nexus for conspiracy theorists. One open thread we have currently on Galley is a place to talk about Apple’s proposed subscription plan for media outlets and whether the company wants to keep too much of the revenue, and how that is likely to impact publishers.

As CJR editor Kyle Pope has explained, one of the core concepts behind Galley is that conversations can either be open to anyone, or they can be restricted. The person who starts the conversation is in control, and they can choose specific people to be a part of it, or they can restrict it to only those they have chosen to trust. Unlike the free-for-all that Twitter discussions often become, no one on Galley has the right to enter your conversation if you don’t want them to. We very much want there to be a free flow of information from as many people as possible, but we are not going to opt for that at the expense of civility or safety. And since we haven’t raised any venture capital and we have no grandiose user engagement targets to hit, there is no pressure to do so.

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Behind this somewhat grand vision is an app and website that are very much a work in progress—a beta, as the tech startups like to call it, or possibly even an alpha. Parts of it don’t look great and/or break randomly, and there are a host of features we wish it had, all of which we are working on adding as fast as we possibly can. So please bear with us if something breaks or doesn’t do what you think it should. If you have thoughts or concerns at all, or just want to hear more about it, please let me know.

Mathew Ingram is CJR’s chief digital writer. Previously, he was a senior writer with Fortune magazine. He has written about the intersection between media and technology since the earliest days of the commercial internet. His writing has been published in the Washington Post and the Financial Times as well as by Reuters and Bloomberg.