Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Credibility issues

Here's an excerpt from an Associated Press story that moved this afternoon:

Study finds gap between editors and readers in ground rules for online conversations

NEW YORK (AP)- Newspaper readers agree with editors on the basics of what makes good journalism, but they are more apt to want looser rules for online conversations, a new study on news credibility has found.

Newspapers highly discourage anonymous remarks, for instance, and editors are more likely than readers to want that principle applied to reader comments online, according to the Online Journalism Credibility Study released Tuesday by the Associated Press Managing Editors group and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.

Some 70 percent of editors surveyed said requiring commenters to disclose their identities would support good journalism, while only 45 percent of the public did. Similarly, 58 percent of editors said letting journalists join online conversations and give personal views would harm journalism, but only 36 percent of the public agreed.

Expressions of personal views seem to help boost readers' interest and trust in Web sites, said John 'Bart" Bartosek, editor of The Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, Fla., and chairman of the credibility committee for the AP managing editors group.

"That's contrary to most of the traditions we've all grown up with, to keep our opinions, viewpoints and personal lives out of our story," Bartosek said. "There's some indication that readers are looking for something more online. Whether it's information about our expertise, our knowledge, our background, I'm not really sure."

Regulars to this blog know how much I loathe anonymous comments. No surprise, this survey says the majority of readers feel differently. But if there's any encouragement for me, it's that 45 percent are on my side. That's a larger number than I'd have anticipated. I look forward to see if more lean my way the next time formal research is done on this subject.
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