What if readers could just add a plugin to their browsers and instantly correct factual or grammatical errors on various news sites? Would they bother? Would news sites ever welcome such an innovation and use it to correct their content? Well, it does exist....
I know at least one former editor of mine whom I’d suspect would relish a tool like this, which would effectively enable him to put a grid over a news site and suggest corrections for any errors, grammatical or factual, in red print – almost like correcting paper pages with a red pen.
I was reminded of this innovation when I attended the Online News Association’s annual conference in San Francisco in September 20012, and media analyst Amy Webb talked about the top ten tech trends for 2012 (I’ve blogged about this talk here, albeit in Norwegian).
The first trend she singled out was #Verification, predicting the emergence on tools and systems bent on verifying content as a result of consumers are getting more sceptical. She even asked, rhetorically: ”What if there was a way to grade the trustworthiness of journalists?”
Well, this is not quite a tool to grade trustworthiness, but it is a tool its masterminds, Tobias Reitz and Kersten A. Riechers, dub a tool to facilitate crowdsourced media accountability.
They believe errors these days spread massively and quickly, like an electronic wildfire, in part due to social media such as Twitter & Facebook, and due to cost cutting in the newsrooms and the demand to do more with less, in addition to the emphasis on speed, they feel we have reason to believe errors happen more and more frequently.
So they invented this tool, called ”Corrigo”, allowing user annotation of news articles, based on their diploma thesis in online journalism.
Corrigo is browser plugin, and people do have to download it, but it helps you flag and correct factual errors, missing links and types in online news articles. With the plugin you can highlight sentences that contain errors. As a publisher you can click on the yellow line on the top of the site to see if there’s anything the Corrigo community wants to tell you.
Corrigo's vision is to fight haste and paste, and if you wonder if parts of an article is copied from a press release, you can check that straight away.
Now, I must admit I got acquainted with Corrigo while listening to Tobias and Kersten talk about it when attending a small media bloggers conference in Bristol as far back as August. So I don’t know if its inventors have forged any partnerships with media organisations since then.
Unfortunately, I picked up a bad strep infection on the way home form Bristol, which put me in bed for two weeks, and then work and life’s been moving at such a frantic pace since I got well that I’ve had no time to blog about it until now.
But it’s a fascinating concept and I’m curious to learn how it would work for a online media organisation and what kind of challenges they might face using it.
I do know, and did mention to Jude Townend, who was there blogging from the conference, that Schibsted-owned VG, a former client, has implemented its own kind of ”crowdsourced media accountability” measure - though very different from Corrigo.
What VG has done is to advertise for people who would serve voluntarily as proofreaders for its news site, which is Norway’s most read. From those who replied to that call they’ve chosen 100 proofreaders, many of them retired teachers, who voluntarily proofread VG.no’s articles.
The proofreading they do is not visible to the readers, but as a journalist you will get an email, or more, from the proofreaders if there are any grammatical errors in your articles. And the number of errors corrected in various journalists’ articles will show up in VG’s internal statistics – as a journalist those stats will enable you to see how many people read your article(s) that day (unique visitors), how many errors were corrected, how many likes it or they received on Facebook etc.
Which is a different way of doing things altogether than what Corrigo offers, but still an interesting and very efficient one.
In either case, it’s really interesting to see innovations like these come about and how they work.
Another verification tool for a very different purpose that Amy Webb mentioned in her before mentioned talk in San Francisco, was the Super PAC app – which works much like Shazam, just that it’s for political ads and not for music. The user holds the phone up to a political ad while it's playing to collect information about the ad's funding and other tidbits. That sounds useful, though I’m curious as to how well such an app can work.
In either case, limiting tech trends to such and such a year is rarely an accurate practice – one or more tends tend to be big one year, but more often than not these trends will tend to stretch over many years. And what many experts single out as a trend one year, very often turns into something more like a seed which rather gradually blossom into full bloom, often stretching over many years – sometimes even a decade or more.
So I for one am very much looking forward to see more of these innovations in verification- and crowdsourced verification, correction and accountability tools in 2013 and beyond as well...
A bit more on Corrigo from the founders: