Transparency: Will an online ethics seal help?

One of the six critical principles of the Next Newsroom is transparency. As choices for news and information explode, a newsroom (however you define it) will have to focus on building and earning the trust of its community. One of the best ways to do that is to embrace transparency in as many ways possible. It needs to be a core value in everything you do.

That’s why I’m excited about the potential for an idea that Pat Thornton has been developing: An online ethics seal. In a post elaborating on the idea, Thornton writes:

“The idea is very simple — to form a series of ethics seals that Web sites, blogs and news organizations could embed on their Web sites. I want these seals to be in the same vein as the Creative Commons.”

So far, Thornton had identified five categories for the seals:

1. Sourcing
2. Objectivity/advocacy/opinion journalism or opinion
3. Linking
4. Copy editing/fact checking (does a second person fact check?)
5. Conflicts of Interests

Read his full post to get all the details. And if you’re interested, hop on over to the wiki he created to help develop the idea further.

This is certainly an idea worth supporting. We’ve seen a couple examples in recent weeks of stories that emerged on citizen journalism sites that were flat out wrong. I’m thinking here of the story about Steve Jobs’ heart attack and the Sarah Palin babygate story. It would be wrong to use either of these examples to trash the whole citizen journalism movement. Mistakes will be made, and erroneous information will get published. It’s happened with traditional media and it will happen with emerging media.

The important thing is to be open with the community about what happens, how it happens, and how you deal with it.

Fostering transparency will be key to maintaining trust. And the online ethics seal seems like a good way to establish some criteria for promoting that openness.

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One Response

  1. I like the idea of Trust Advisors better, or a “credentialing body” of some sort.

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