Mozilla-Knight Foundation – People Powered News Challenge Entry

Posted: June 6, 2011 by Steve in Uncategorized
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The main ingredient missing in our current news system is the systematic pursuit of truth. It is riddled with attempts to distract, obscure, mislead and confuse the public. The reasons are many and varied, but my thesis is centered on the idea that the powers that own or control the media have no interest in the pursuit of truth.

My proposal is to create a software eco-system to allow the formation of social eco-systems that are centered on the continuous pursuit of truth as events happen. A social eco-system that is focused on the continuous pursuit of truth relies on three principles: a desire to pursue the truth, a systematic method to do so, and a way to ensure that as much of the whole truth is exposed as is possible.

The desire to pursue the truth is the mission statement for these new ecosystems. Every decision in how they should evolve into the future can be made in relation to whether it will enhance the pursuit of truth or not.

The method best suited to systematically pursue the truth is the scientific method. The gathering of observations and the testing of hypothesis against those observations has served civilization for 400 years in the greatest expansion of knowledge the world has ever seen.  This is particularly important when assessing claims and counter claims about a particular issue (eg. how to address the deficit or if it needs to be a number one priority at all).

Finally, on issues of truth in the world, it matters who is doing the research and how their needs are being met. The scientific method may be our best tools to get to the truth, but it can be corrupted through the omission, distortion, and incorrect weighting of observations. This can be seen in actual scientific work where industry sponsored studies consistently result in different conclusions than non-industry sponsored studies. Who is in control of the needs (read: pay) of the people doing the researching, assessing, selecting of stories to pursue matters in what is produced as a final product. It can also be corrupted through the omission of entire areas of inquiry. This has resulted in promising solutions to current problems being ignored, and silence to the concerns of large swaths of people in need.

Both of these issues can be addressed through two characteristics: diversity and transparency. Diversity of funding is important to make sure that one or a small number of funding sources don’t effect how news is gathered. Diversity of writers/editors/contributors ensures that the stories that are covered are relevant to all parts of society. Transparency of the entire organization, including all accounting, pay, and agreements with other organizations will allow anyone to audit the pressures that influence this organization’s output.

Journalism is a process that happens everyday. It is only when we have a continuous focus on the process that we can be sure that the output of it approximates the truth.

Go here for an expanded version of this.

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