Flutterby™! : I wanna news drug

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I wanna news drug

2004-05-18 15:56:14.967728+00 by Dan Lyke 11 comments

I got to thinking yesterday, after poking around thomas.loc.gov and the Senate, House of Representatives and Pentagon pages, that I want a new kind of news outlet.

I will pay money to support a news organization that:

  • when it uses publicly available records, press releases, transcripts or briefings for quotes or information, links to them. If such releases aren't published online by the organization offering them, makes those documents available alongside the stories and condensed versions in as close to their original form as is possible.
  • is clear about their sources; differentiates between when a quote is in response to a question from an interviewer rather than lifted from a press release or other transcript.
  • has information pages on each of the organizations and people that it references in a given story, even if those pages are just links to other stories in which those people have appeared, along with the link to, say, their official government or role pages.
  • spiders the aforementioned resources to offer up voting records and other sorts of "I want to see this more in depth" information for bills passed and people mentioned.

In short, I want a news outlet that isn't trying to carry the bad practices of the newspaper forward into the hypertext era, that isn't trying to lie about its own sources, and that isn't being a paid shill for advertisers and PR people who know how to manipulate undercompensated reporters.

[ related topics: Quotes Politics Consumerism and advertising Journalism and Media ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-18 16:18:53.782759+00 by: ziffle

In short you are asking for the traditional, Objective Journalism that used to be, and should be, taught and (hopefully) practiced...

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-18 16:55:06.270004+00 by: Dan Lyke

Ziffle: I'm not convinced that it ever really existed, although it may at one point have been taught.

More random thoughts:

It'd also be worthwhile to spider the bill full text from thomas.loc.gov and annotate it to the United States Code at the Legal Information Institute (or a similar resource) so that the process of reading "strike 'it is' and replace with 'will be' in paragraph 2 section 14..." becomes easier.

This would also make it possible to do a bit of searching by topic, and if we tied it to voting record we could auotmate unearthing which congressweasels have a habit of mucking about with which portions of the code.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-18 16:56:29.897453+00 by: Dan Lyke

Whoah: The US Code is also available from the House of Representatives servers.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-18 17:44:06.613948+00 by: Larry Burton

So is Georgia's and several other states on other servers.

Yeah and it aggravates me to no end when a news story references something being published on a website and then doesn't give any link or even the URL to the website they are referencing. Yeah, I'd pay for that service too as long as it wasn't prohibitively expensive.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-18 21:08:23.887363+00 by: petronius

Your perfect news organization would do a great job with the three stories it would publish each day. It couldn't do more, since it would be spending all its time getting all the supporting material. However, I think better linking and correlation with supplemental materials is a great idea, and perhaps somebody will figure out a way to do it in a timely maner. Certainly giving a website for each .org mentioned in the article would be a good step. Of course, we would eventually get footnotes at the bottom citing the Democratic Party, GOP, Americans for Democratic Action, Family Focus, and the Insane Jihadi Celtic Alliance for Justice.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-18 21:43:41.866537+00 by: Dan Lyke

Actually I doubt the supporting material would be that much of a problem. Most of these organizations are probably already getting their source material in electronic form (every time I've tracked down the supporting press release for, say, an AP story it's been emailed to me), and most of these releases can just be republished on their own servers as-is.

For those articles like the mention yesterday of The Nation mentioning NBC News Meet The Press a reasonably sized news organization could almost certainly come up with some tools for digging out citations, and all that'd be necessary would be authors giving some close supporting citations like they claim they're giving to editors all the time (or perhaps editors are lazy and Jayson Blair wasn't an anomaly). Heck, often it doesn't even need to be a link; how hard would it be to add "At a May 7th press conference at the Whitehouse, Bob said"?

Perhaps we need to go around the press: There have been assorted trial balloons before on trying to use weblogs to group stories by content, maybe there's some way for weblogs to group a set of stories by their "meta story" (the twenty or thirty re-phrasings that happen for a given press release or press conference) and for us to provide the background information in a collaborative way.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-18 22:10:15.464183+00 by: meuon

[aol-er mode=on]Me Too![Wiki][/aol-er mode=off]

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-19 05:15:13.500452+00 by: Pete

Got any specific requests for the Thomas folks? I've got a guy...

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-19 13:14:07.448003+00 by: Larry Burton

maybe there's some way for weblogs to group a set of stories by their "meta story"

Isn't Technoriati doing something like that? I know it's doing it mainly for weblogs but couldn't that technology be used against the list of news services that Google News uses and give you what you're looking for?

Actually, I can use a phrase search on Google News and get a pretty good listing of where that phrase was used. Or am I missing what you are driving toward?

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-19 17:30:37.68296+00 by: Dan Lyke

Larry, I tried putting

Powell "Meet The Press"

into Technorati and got... well... a hell of a lot less than I expected. I've never gotten what I'd think of as useful results out of it, so I'm not sure what they're trying to do.

I think, though, that as you guess you are missing what I'm driving toward. Take, for instance, a CNN article about L.L. Bean suing Nordstrom and others over spyware ads. As we read through the article, we see that basically it's a bunch of comments by L.L. Bean VP of E-commerce Mary Lou Kelley, with a:

Company officials for Nordstrom and Atkins declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Gevalia also would not comment until they had seen the lawsuit.

paragraph. So I want to know what context Mary Lou Kelley was making those statements in. Was it one-on-one with a reporter? In a press conference? Or part of a press release? I suspect the latter. And when the story ends:

The only legitimate windows that would pop up on the company's Web site would be one-question customer surveys, she said.

Is that what she really said, or did the paraphrase from the press release drop critical information?

Admittedly this is a super fluffy example, but from my days at Pixar where I saw the press release and then the flurry of resulting stories I'm also well aware that the reporters who write these things introduce lots of errors and misspellings and whatever into the story (you'd be amazed at how many ways I saw "pixar" spelled back in late 1995...). I'm also fairly sure that the AP has an electronic copy of that press release, and I'd guess that CNN does to. How about showing us that resource, and if we're more interested in the story we can see more than just the pull-quotes the reporter thought were interesting?

Similarly, we often see PR folks send out canned packages that a reporter will use when they need some quick pull quotes and something to run. Rebecca Blood mentioned the Justice & Young story ideas page. From experience I know that a lot of reporters are scrambling to use that shortcut to start their stories from, heck, editors may even be assigning those ideas to reporters. How about adding a "this story was inspired by..." reference and let people see the original package?

Pete, I'm not sure just yet, most of what I want is outside of their purview. I'll sit on the idea for a bit and see what I can come up with.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-05-20 14:22:57.307238+00 by: ebradway

Three well-researched, well-documented articles per day would be a terrific start! As far as the man-power issue goes, just think of the droves of drones at every little 'berg's Daily Press who spend their days writing exactly the same stories? And should the research groundwork already be done in the process of writing an article?