Sharp-eyed readers -- or at least those who read past the first couple of sentences of each post -- will notice a new widget on the sidebar.
As an enthusiastic supporter of NewsTrust Baltimore, I am proud to direct Unsung Baltimore viewers to this bold and much-needed experiment to engage local residents in media literacy and criticism.
Simply put, NT Baltimore invites everyone with web access to read, review, and comment on journalism by local news outlets. While membership is free, subscribers must register using their real names, which reduces the risk of drive-by trolling and incendiary posts that sadly infest the comments threads of even reputable and established news sites. Members not only rate news stories on accuracy, fairness, context, and other indicators, but they can rate each other's reviews as well.
For me, one of the coolest aspects of this application is that it resembles a game. The more articles you review, the more comments you post, and the more peer ratings you give and receive, the more of a "trusted member" you become. By being an active participant, you can move from someone who rates articles, to a peer reviewer, to an editor, to a group host, to a content producer in your own right.
One of the goals of this project is therefore to promote transparency, accountability, responsibility, thoughtfulness, and civility on the parts of journalists, the publications they work for, the people and institutions they report on, and local news consumers.
NewsTrust was founded in 2005 by Fabrice Florin, a former news producer and software developer who helped produce MTV News, Macromedia's Shockwave, and a number of online games. NT Baltimore, which was launched in January 2011 with the support of the Open Society Foundations, is the first branch of NewsTrust dedicated to journalism from a geographically targeted news market.
The pilot phase of the project is for three months, with the hope that the initiative will continue indefinitely, based on funding and community response.
In keeping with the theme of this blog, the articles that appear in the widget to the right are exclusively about the Baltimore community.
Go ahead and sign up. It's fun. And it's valuable.