A good question is the necessary precondition, even if insufficient, for obtaining a good answer. The problem is therefore to clarify whether or not this question might be a valid question. It is certainly an urgent question. The quantity of information available is increasing at an incredible rate, via social media, the Internet, digitalisation and the acceleration of the speed at which one can access content on line. The fact is that the Internet has made it much cheaper to publish content. The role of quality filter, in the analogue era, was played by few major “custodians” of knowledge: publishers, universities and cultural authorities.
Today, in the context of information being published very easily, this filtering function only takes place during the writing process. The actual validity of content therefore becomes a problem in terms of being able to judge and assess its quality. Every point of view is valid and every evaluation of the quality is possible – this new reality can both enrich and disorientate. It can open up culture to the multiplicity of free expression and can make it more difficult to find common, tolerant and respectful cultural ground with the risk that only those with the loudest voice are heard above the general noise.
However it could be argued that risk is just an anxious way of defining the concept of opportunity. Risk is an integral part of the process of innovation. When a society takes on risk it means that the society has decided to embrace change. One thing is clear, society has enthusiastically embraced the web, has experimented with its usefulness and found liberation in the richness and free flow of ideas. Society hasTherefore it has seen more opportunities than risks in the web. For this reason the evolution of the web cannot and should not be hindered, feared, manipulated, managed or denied. It should be embraced with courage, both actively and constructively.
If there is a fundamental phenomenon in the culture of the web, it is its ability to instil the vision of change and its ability to encourage action by those that use it, thereby participating in its evolution. Quality of information on the web cannot be imposed, it is enriched through thought and initiative. Only by having a critical approach to the web can the inherent problems be discovered, possible solutions be imagined and initiatives experimented with. In this context, it is no longer the position of a cultural authority to define the quality of information. That role is now taken on by those generating the information, by those encouraging a critical approach, and those participating in the experience - creating, in the spirit of serving, a role that is no longer a means to earning a living. Digging deeper in this direction one discovers that recent history, in the information sector, can be summarised with a single observation: the general public has thrown off its passivity, which the previous media context had imposed upon it, and is putting the information authorities under pressure; not by denying them their role, but by stimulating the authorities to demonstrate the legitimacy of their position through concrete action.
A renewal of the information eco-system could be the end result. The thrust and the meaning of this renewal, especially in technology, are to be found in the individuals who take the opportunities offered by technology and request and encourage change. All this adds greater urgency to the question that has inspired these initial contributions to the research of the Fondazione Ahref. But this does not demonstrate that it is a good question. No doubt, an evaluation will emerge from the cultural, educational and practical results that this type of inspiration might favour. For the moment, we can only wish everyone a successful dialogue, starting with the contributions that certain “masters” of contemporary culture have kindly contributed to our burgeoning community.
By David Weinberger
Here's one familiar narrative about the rise of the Net: We all used to get the same information, and it came through carefully curated sources.
Newspapers, for example, were far from perfect, but at least they had some quality checks. Further, when you read the paper, you had issues brought before you that you wouldn't have known to seek out on your own.
The Net, on the other hand (says this narrative), leaves
each of us to seek out only what is already in our narrow interests, and the information we come across is more likely to be wrong than right. Likewise, libraries at least made expert decisions about what is worth stocking on the shelves, whereas the Net is a free-for-all of unqualified pronouncements.
There is truth to this narrative, although it is far from complete.For one thing, it paints too happy a picture of life before the Net. In the pre-Net days, most of us were reading sensationalist, slanted
newspapers, and if they carried articles about faraway lands that we didn't care about (which they generally rarely did), we probably skipped them. And libraries do make careful decisions about what to include, but those decisions are constrained by space, so old worthy books are thrown out to make room for new worthy ones. Their assessments of worth also inevitably express hidden biases and assumptions.
Worse, this narrative sets up a framework that misses how we routinely and almost always operate in the world as seekers of knowledge. It thinks knowledge is a class of true statements that have passed through carefully controlled gates. In fact, we've always been pragmatists about this. We believe what is true enough. And that of course depends on what we're trying to do. We have one set of processes and standards when we're trying to decide what type of automobile tires to buy, another when we're deciding on how to treat a persistent muscle strain, and another when casting a vote in an election.
The traditional credentialing authorities are still with us, generally. Publishers, libraries, academic journals, and newspapers still vet works and select what they think is worthwhile. We just no
longer believe that there is a firm line between Knowledge (with a capital K) and everything else we need to believe in order to make it through a day. The old authorities are providing one particular sort of "good enough" knowledge. It's not as special as the old authorities want to believe and would like us to believe.
The old Knowledge still matters. It matters a great deal that scientific research, vouched for by the traditional journals, has shown that innoculating babies does not increase the risk of autism. When it comes to making decisions about innoculating your child, that still should be the standard of "good enough." What's changing is the notion that there is a firm line between the knowledge that is merely good enough and the knowledge that is Knowledge. That change does not affect us as believers so much so much as it affects the institutions that have maintained their positions in our culture by presenting themselves as arbiters of a truth beyond what is good enough.
The old narrative does contain a warning and a challenge that we need to heed. It seems that we tend to believe that if something is said in a public sphere, it must have some truth. That was more true back in the old days when the broadcast channels were so narrow, and professionals were gatekeepers. Of course they got much wrong, but making it through a process of professional curation did provide at least some confidence that what we read was true. That's much less the
case when anyone can post any idea any time. Given how much absurdity is believed to be true these days, it may be that we are applying the old assumptions to what's posted on the Net, believing things simply because they were uttered. This may be a residue of the old narrative,
or it may be an innate weakness of the human brain. Either way, it is incumbent upon us to educate ourselves and our young so that we become far better at subtly judging what constitutes good enough when it comes to what we believe.
By John Lloyd
I attended a funeral celebration recently, which I helped to arrange.
It was a celebration of the death of a specialism of journalism: a “beat”, which is the way much journalism is organized. The beat was labour journalism.
Labour journalism was probably more ingrained into the journalistic culture of the UK than any other country: though I’m open to correction on this. I haven’t encountered it in such fully developed form in any other culture I know: I’ve asked about it in the US, Russia, Italy and France. But maybe in the Scandinavian countries, or in Germany, it lives a good life still.
To be sure, other journalistic cultures had, and some still have, specialists who cover stories involving labour issues. They have good contacts with employers, trade unions, officials in government and intermediate institutions which deal with questions of labour, and they would know a bit about what they are writing or broadcasting about (something which we shouldn’t take as always the case in reports).
But in the UK, the group – which formed itself around Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour, during the war and which after the war continued to cover the labour movement in the period of the post-war Labour government - became institutionalized. The reporters who patrolled this beat formed an association, the Labour and Industrial Correspondents’ Group, which had a President, rules and a membership list (women were excluded at first).
Because trade unions were so important to the Labour Party – they created it, financed it, organized for its election, sustained, or embarrassed, it in power – the job of the labour correspondent became both high profile and increasingly concerned with the unions. As the “labour question” came to be seen as the central issue of the British polity from the fifties onwards, and as the number and intensity of strikes gave Britain the journalistically-inspired tag of the “sick man of Europe”, so the job of the labour correspondent to some measure displaced and surpassed that of the political correspondents, in the UK as elsewhere seen as the summit of domestic reporting.
There was some good reporting done by this group of men and women (few women: unlike other male dominated parts of journalism – particularly the reporting of war - it never became attractive to most women reporters). But it was dominated by the prism of the unions; and the divisions within the labour movement – left, right, and centrist – also divided the journalists.
We did write and broadcast about the world of work, but usually at one remove. The unions, the labour movement, the battles within the movement, the threats and realities of industrial action – all of these were important and had a direct bearing on the politics of the UK.
But underneath were greater dramas, which have remained – and become more dramatic – even after the decline of the strength of the trade unions due to the Thatcher reforms and the decline of the industrial base in the eighties and early nineties.
These were the huge changes in the nature of work for millions of people, as the industrial society gave way to the post industrial society. At the same time, the processes which are called globalization became more prominent in the domestic life of countries.
In brief, there is a huge area which British labour journalism did not describe adequately: the world of work.
I do not think it was done, or is being done, much better elsewhere. The great growth area in journalism of all kinds over the past twenty years has been in consumer journalism: in the media generally, the growth has been in the quantity and above all in the variety of entertainment. Journalism – that activity which covers the events of the day, and now, the hour – does write about work, but as a by-product of something else.
Thus at the moment, there is much journalism about the measure passed in this past week in the US state of Wisconsin: a bill – called the Budget Repair bill - which limits collective bargaining to wages, restricts wages to inflation, increases the amount employees pay for health insurance and pensions and gives union members the right not to pay dues. But it’s covered as essentially a political story, a Democrats vs. Republicans story, with the main concern being how far it strengthens, or weakens, the Obama presidency.
We have had coverage of the surge of the middle class in India: but it’s been an economic story. We’ve had coverage of the huge growth of the industrial labour force in China: but it’s been a political-economic story.
We need a journalism of work. We need to have specialists, who will write on a global canvas as well as a national one, who see in the huge movements of labour of every kind as one of the great dramas of the world, which require being made into a narrative by journalism.
That is what journalism does, at its best. It brings together diverse facts and trends, movements and personalities, into a coherent story. The duty of journalism is to try to make that story accord with the cats. There is always a greater or lesser degree of simplification in this; and there is always much scope for alternative versions – one of the basic justifications for a free press. But the important matter is to have the reporting.
So there is a vacancy: for a global labour correspondent. When I put up this idea at the funeral for the British labour writers, there came the obvious objection: who will publish the work of such a correspondent. Journalism is a very market-based trade, acutely sensitive to what consumers want and will pay for.
This is the more so at a time of decline : the news media, especially the newspapers, are desperate to retain their audience: so if that audience wants celebrities, they get celebrities. Sine they don’t seem, in the main, to want stories about work, they don’t get them.
Yet journalism can’t define itself as a trade which “makes the significant interesting” if it doesn’t try to do just that. The revolutions in the world – worlds – of work are significant, for many millions. We journalists now live on and by the Net, which – whatever its destructive effect on newspapers – gives us the ability to develop areas in a way we never could before.
Time to work at the journalism of work.
(Contributing editor to the Financial Times, director of Journalism of the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford and director of the Axess Programme on Journalism and Democracy)
By Chris Brooks
Socrates reminded us that the only thing that he knew was that he knew nothing. He puts us on guard against the idea of certainty or more worryingly absolute truth.
The methodology of much modern science is interesting in this regard in that the wise scientists talk about an approach which is based on truthfulness and not truth i.e. the pursuit of an ideal which at best could only exist at some moment of time.
Today, much of what we think we” know” is based on statistics and few contemporary arguments are not accompanied by their statistical evidence- a sort of irrefutable proof of the validity of evidence produced - and of course the judgements and opinions that follow.
Now statistics are of course information. But information is not knowledge as Einstein famously observed .In the modern world, especially in the social sciences but also in the political class it is held that statistics should be the unassailable facts upon which knowledge is based. To use an analogy, statistics represent the raw material for the creation of knowledge, just as steel represents the raw material for the manufacture of cars. But it is knowledge that takes steel and turns it into an car and in the same way it is knowledge which takes the raw material of statistics and turns it into knowledge, and eventually into policy. But the quality of the raw material i.e. the statistics is often poor and in some cases plain wrong. As Joel best reminded us in his book “Damned Lies and Statistics”:
“While some social problems statistics are deliberate deceptions, many – probably the great majority – of bad statistics are the result of confusion , incompetence , innumeracy, or selective self- righteous efforts to produce numbers that reaffirm principles and interests that their advocates consider just and right”.
The most informed specialists can usually look at statistics and assess critically their source, quality and purpose. But this is not true of much of the media and the general public. Published statistics seem to acquire a life of their own even when their source is not much more than a guess and then they are used to justify the most flawed of propositions. In time they then mute. There are many examples but the point to underline is the importance of objective critical assessment of statistics which risk the propagation of false knowledge.
It is extremely important that our education systems teach how to carefully assess the validity of data because we all confront masses of it today and statistics are now a vital element in the ideological and ideas wars that influence our behavior and our values. Bad information and bad statistics lead to flawed and sometimes dangerous ”knowledge”. And in the interdependent world we live in, it is fundamental that we reach broad consensus on the underlying methodology and the quality of many statistics with global implications, beginning with macro- economic data of major economies which impact on exchange rates, trade and investment flows but more and more importantly in areas such as climate change and demography.
Many in society feel overwhelmed by the volume of statistics inundating us via Internet, television and the press. And we are producing more and more so called statistical information every day. Politicians strive to insert figures in every speech. Business use micro and macro data to make their decisions about investments and future plans. Pressure groups, lobbyists and NGO’s use statistics every day in support of their cause or interest. And yet so many of these statistics are dubious and unreliable. And how can we know what information we should really take to heart?
What we must understand is that information is structured and formatted data, whereas it is knowledge that empowers us with the capacity for intelligent action both physically and intellectually. We need to accept that increasing information alone will not ensure any improvement in our decision making capacities or in charting the policies that will lead to a better world.
By Paul Steiger
First, the new ecosystem can simultaneously embrace many more models than was possible in the past. So, for example, the traditional in-depth, text narrative survives and even thrives, on the Web, even as newer models have emerged involving shorter, quicker pieces closer to the news, written with much less depth of reporting but presenting a new way of looking at a topic, or digging out one or two important new facts. Both approaches can provide a quality service to varying kinds of readers.
Second, the long-form stories can be presented in a variety of previously unknown ways electronically -- with interactive graphics, in multiple chapters, with multiple links to text or video, and so on. Also, the text narrative itself can take new forms. For example, we and others have begun producing and distributing through Amazon something called Kindle Singles. These are text articles of 10,000 to 25,000 words in length (ours have typically run 12,000 to 14,000 words), which are longer than a long magazine article but significantly shorter than a book. Some are provided free, some for $1 a copy, and they are downloaded to a Kindle or similar handheld reader. This allows reporters who have been covering a topic for many months to repackage their previous reporting, add some new material, and create a narrative that allows someone coming newly to a topic to have a single reading experience that provides in-depth knowledge.
Third, Facebook, Twitter and other social media are making it possible for "sherpas" to guide readers through a wide menu of available entries on a topic, including entries from other sherpas, so that the reader can pick what entries to dig into based on his/her particular interest. Some of this is the by-now familiar practice of aggregating; in other cases the curation includes providing context, so that an entry to which the reader is guided becomes easier to understand. In that way, an entry that by itself would not be graded as being of high quality becomes a very high quality indeed when its usefulness is enhanced by such provision of context.
Fourth, the modern ecosystem embraces free-standing interactive data bases that have high news or information value and high quality. For example, a team of two ProPublica reporters and a database journalist recently produced what we called "Dollars for Docs." This was a database containing the names of 17,000 U.S. physicians all of whom had received money from one or more of seven pharmaceutical companies for promoting the use of drugs produced by one or more of the companies among other physicians. The database, which is available free on the internet, allows individuals to discover whether their physicians are receiving such money, how much (in some cases the fees exceed $100,000 annually), from which companies, and which drugs those companies produce. It also allows journalists and medical school deans to see whether doctors are complying with rules some teaching hospitals have limiting or barring the taking of such money by physicians on their staffs.
Work in all of these categories fully meets the standard of "high quality," yet in many cases would not have been possible just five years ago. I fully expect the number of categories and varieties within categories to expand, quite rapidly, in coming years.
By Angelo Agostini
I have a strongly feel that the question with which <ahref began its dialogue on the web can be further extended. This feeling is based on both extensive empirical experience and on a theoretical supposition. If the question is: “how does the quality of information evolve”, the extension to this question could certainly be: “how does the quality of readers change?”. In this case the “readers” can be TV viewers, listeners or even partners involved in participatory information projects.
This experience comes from, not only from my time as a journalist but also above all from my profession. I have been studying the subject of journalism for over 30 years. For twenty of those I have been teaching aspiring journalists. For fifteen years I have been teaching a university degree course in communication studies. As you might imagine I have participated at hundreds of training events, discussions and research projects on the relationship between varied social and professional groups with the world of information. I can no longer remember how many thousands of people have given me the opportunity to try and fathom in what way journalistic information affects, impacts, changes, represents, distorts and contributes to giving or denying visibility to their work and their daily life.
The theoretical supposition follows on from a series of considerations about the way in which the relationship between journalism and the forming of public opinion has changed, which I can briefly summarize, as this situation is well known to the most informed group of professionals and experts in the sector. There is the initial story of the studies of public opinion reported by Walter Lippman, who tells us how the news of the outbreak of the First World War reached the English, German and French inhabitants of a South American island (the name of which escapes me) only some weeks after the fighting had begun. People who had been living together peacefully until that day, suddenly found themselves at war because they happened to be emigrants from the European nations at war. Then there is the story that we can all see for ourselves, of the way in which the “willing” nations and then NATO intervened in Libya in recent weeks.
So, in 1914, in a world where news was scarce and public opinion much less important, the declaration of war was a fact. Like all facts, it could only be recounted for what it was (certainly, unless you performed an act of intellectual abstraction of removing from the newspaper article the nationalistic rhetoric which absolutely no newspaper was exempt from). But today, in Libya, what are the facts? What is the fact that gave rise to the western intervention with it subsequently being extended to non western nations? What are individuals and public opinion making a judgement on? On the beginning of the revolt in Benghazi? On the repression unleashed by the dictator who only weeks previously was being welcomed on the global stage? On the presumed French involvement in the preparation of the revolt? Or on the desire for change, liberty and progress in North Africa which looks like spreading to the Middle East? I think it is obvious that the substance of these questions does not refer to a historic judgement/is not based on historical knowledge?. If this were the case, even with the outbreak of the First World War we could hold a long discussion. It is more a journalistic judgement which is offering cover to the long and complex processes that are unfolding, particularly at the moment when revolts and wars break out. They are above all processes. These are not facts. Processes are made up of the production, portrayal and control of dozens or hundreds of “facts” by the government and media outlets and other authorities- ?.
Is war too controversial an example? Well, let us consider one of the other “issues” of the new millennium, Avian flu, swine flu. Where are they, what are the facts? Where are the number of the sick and dead which no national or international health authority manages or wants to release on time? Is it the result of the lobbying of pharmaceutical companies on governments? Is it the competition between research institutes that are inundating the media with information which during the crisis, no editorial board, no journalist is really able to check or verify?
How does one verify the level of radioactivity around Fukushima? Who is able to check whether the information provided by Tepco or the government regarding the reactors can be relied on or not?
I will not dwell much on the issue of globalisation, which imposes on the global attention, a mass of news that is incomparable with the past, nor on the speed of the international flow of news, which is the catalyst of the overload of the information eco-system in which we live. I will just say that for every example mentioned (and for the thousands of others that could be mentioned) therecould be all the technical and intellectual verification required if good journalistic practices were adopted, and if the social information on offer (non-professional) would bring about an improvement or a worsening of the information available. It is also certain that not even this would be sufficient.
There is one detail that cannot be overlooked. It is the fact that each one of these verification sytems can only take action after the citizens of the world have drunk from their fountain of news. And then there is the substance of their reality. If we do not put the readership in the position of being able to recognise the fact that they are constantly immersed in a continual information process, none of them will be able to critically receive the nature of the flow of information to be assessed. None of them will have the tools to decipher the media ecosystem in which they live. How will it be possible to succeed in the task and the thematic over the coming weeks, months and years of ahref.eu and of all of the others in the world who are making these sorts of efforts? For now I will just make two observations. If our educational system was not that which we know it to be, the first point would solve itself: as we learn to read and write at school we should also learn to live with the media. And given that this would be a Herculean task, we can now at least be content with those tools that do exist (such as this website) that call into question the state of the media and information resources with which we currently live.
By Mario Tedeschini Lalli
The discussion about “quality” of information, of its presumed downward spiral into “quantity” , of the presumed lack – mercy be - of authoritative filters, is at risk of spinning around requests of principle, rather than seeking to come to terms with the changing reality of men and relationships. Especially in Italy. It is therefore necessary to analyze these prejudices, these biases that the debate casts into the shade/conceals before attempting to imagine the replies.
Lets pretend for a while that we all agree on what should be understood by “quality” information and attempt to analyze the wording that unconsciously harms the discussion, starting from two expressions that we have quoted in the opening paragraph.
The first and the most damaging prejudice is that “quantity ”is automatically detrimental to “quality” in the great sea of information in which “everyone can say anything”. It’s a deceptive concept from at least two points of view:
1. As the increase in information grows, obviously, the increase in the quantity of “quality” information does too. Whether this relationship between one and the other grows, decreases or remains stabile could be a matter of discussion (e.g. as if we would have evaluated in the “past” the quantity or quality of the information on “ Radio Infantryman” in the trenches of the First World War in comparison to the quantity or quality of the information of large countries or the press?);
2. since the solely quantitive increase in information is a good thing in itself. It is enough to take reasoning to its limits: between two hypothetical” evils”, between zero information and “too much” information it is obvious that it is better to have too much. We can ask ourselves in a more abstract way what the “right quantity” of information is, but just broaching the subject is enough to bring us out in a cold sweat from the point of view of a democratic society. Apart from anything else, who should decide: Parliament? The Society of Journalists? A periodical referendum? Come on……..
This doesn’t mean, of course, that the quantity - some say the glut - of information shouldn’t be considered a problem. This leads to reasoning about the filters which we rely on to bring the quantity down to a manageable size and to highlight the second of the prejudices that often give fuel to the debate on these topics: that “on internet”- or to be more precise, in the digital universe, these filters do not exist, that the citizen/ user is left to depend on his own efforts to manage in an enormous and indistinct blob (“blob” I mean blob, even if the spellcheck and the prevailing culture tend to confuse this with “blog”)
In reality filters exist. They are (still) the online journalists’ headings, they are the human or automatic aggregators, they are the “friends” from the social networks, they are the blog that we visit every day, they are, and ever more so - the institutions, political and cultural groups and the companies themselves that propose and guide the consumption of information. The problem that we should be asking ourselves is not if there are filters, but which selection criteria they adopt.
The paradox is that this vision of a perfectly and negatively anarchical digital universe is fuelled by a few simplistic individual interpretations of the digital universe itself. From the idea of a digital universe- in particular of the web – where everyone is equal to everyone else, which is the same way of saying that all dots are the same as each other. This is patently not true: there are stronger and more powerful dots, those which build and inherit a number of relationships with other even bigger dots. In substance, it boils down to a question of power and powers that show themselves even in the digital version of human relationships.
This vision (irenic, or catastrophic) of perfectly anarchical networks subtends another preconceived idea: that all citizens are equally linked to the web and would like to be equally active in relations with each other, even in informative relations. The idea, that is the “rationality” of civis digitalis implies the same extent of participation in the life of society. The reality shows us the opposite. Each one of us, even the most pro-active in their search for information trusts, in a more or less conscious way, other dots for suggestions, ideas, data. There is, furthermore, a big mass of people – a majority - that will continue to prefer to make passive use of information. Should we consider these people as half- citizens (from an informative point of view?)
Here the as yet unresolved problem arises of the establishment of dots in the digital universe of dots that a lot of these citizens can, at least partially, reliably use as a delegate for the selection and the finding of information. Dots that will carry out this task professionally, will continue to exist no matter what and it has still to be understood which criteria they depend on. I hope that there are also “journalistic “ dots. Professional journalism has been carrying out and continues to carry out not only the role of “filter”, selection and narrative organization of information, but also the social role of “facilitator”, or “representative?” of citizens’ requirements and problems in front of the powers that be (political, economic, cultural, religious etc): in a social network where different dots have varying powers, this is also an essential role.
That something should be worth hoping for or is even necessary does not, however, imply, that it has to exist no matter what. A necessary condition, even though it is not sufficient to hope that it will come about in the future, is that the world of journalism should ruthlessly ask itself which functions it really fulfils that could not be fulfilled just as well or even more effectively by other “informative dots”. The real selection and supply criteria that distinguish their work and products should also be questioned as well as which specific instruments can be used to achieve those objectives. It comes down to asking oneself about the current “quality” (or relative or recent past) of one’s own work, as a preconceived idea to save it where it is, to create it where it is not yet present and ideally to expand it over the long-term.
Personally I think that it is necessary to retrieve a concept of quality of information that is closer to the theoretical idea that is bandied about, and more distant from the daily reality of editorial products. Beginning, for example, to work on fact and on verification of that fact, on data. Our American and British friends, who over decades have come up against countless problems, have attempted to walk down this path in the world of analogical journalism are a step ahead and thus can rightly discuss the ambiguities and ideologies that data often conceals.
In Italy it would be useful to at least begin to create a culture of checking out the facts (caution: not a culture of suspicion), which would be a perfect combination for several of the praxis and values of the digital universe that we are talking about: sharing, participation. However, of course it would be necessary to be definitively aware that “quality” does not rhyme with closure, or exclusivity, or taking just one direction. If it ever has.
By Pier Luca Santoro
The current landscape of knowledge workers, including journalists in a broader sense, cannot be easily measured and outlined in qualitative terms. Often this difficulty becomes even greater when moving from print to digital content, thus giving way to “click whore” stories produced exclusively for attracting more visitors to a certain website.
Probably the first indicator to measure the quality of information lies in its ability to meet the need to recognize the actual reasons behind events and news items. In the current stage of information overload, quality news reporting means to understand rather than to expose, to explain rather than to report about facts that most people are already aware of, given the large presence of social media.
Fact checking is also a crucial step to ensure the quality of any possible scoop. And we should consider that the publication of a story is the beginning, as opposed to the end, of any qualitative news reporting. According to Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of «The Guardian», publishing is just an opening door for readers involvement, more than a process related to product quality or journalism work.
This implies a function of public service, that is, the production of something useful for the public at large, whose different needs must be met in order to reach certain qualitative standards – such as an initiative on commuting trains that directly involves and attracts most readers-citizens.
Quality includes also innovative practices and new kinds of relations with the particular shares of readership, by employing, for example, newsgames to quickly entail young people. Also important is to help community-building around shared issues, events or people.
Of course there are other elements that could strengthen the quality of news-reporting, and I hope we could outline them in a collaborative and participatory fashion.