12 September 2007

Citizen Editors

A week or so ago I decided to add a couple of widgets to my sidebar - one tracks the amount of money all the top-tier presidential candidates are raising, the other tracks the political stories that politically-oriented digg users tag most. I do not necessarily agree with or verify the accuracy of the stories in the digg widget. I put it there because I'm interested in the political discussions that take place online, regardless of the ideological slant, and it's important to know what's getting attention and from whom. These are just some focal points of larger discussions - they're not my points. I tend not to digg political articles of any slant, so I have no control over what's showing up in the widget.

Then this morning I see this:
A news agenda formulated by citizens would be radically different from that put together by journalists.

That is the conclusion of a US study which compared what made the headlines in the mainstream media with that of three diverse user-driven news sources.

Read the executive summary here.

Of course, this is just the latest example of consumers shaping the news. While the study authors classify what's happening here as the creation of a "secondary" discussion of the news, I find very little about it to be "secondary." Yes, it's reasonably clear to me that early adopters of technology tools such as aggregators are skewing the discussions toward their own interests. But as I look at the politcal digg widget in the sidebar, I see something different.

I see an interesting mix of really salient political stories coupled with some that clearly are driven by activists who want to draw attention to certain things. I see news stories being used as part of a political agenda. And I see how issues-based PR professionals might want to use digg to promote certain stories. And I see a lot of opportunities for less-than-transparent abuse.

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