MediaAct: a new platform and network for media accountability?

On Friday and Saturday (27-28 July) I joined a group of European media bloggers in Bristol for a seminar organised by MediaWise, the EU MediaAct project at UWE and the NUJ New Media Industrial Council.

MediaAcT is a European research project comparing media accountability and transparency systems and examining digital engagement, such as blogging. MediaWise (which in its words “has been warning about unethical behaviour by tabloid journalists and calling for reform of the regulatory system for almost 20 years”) based at the University of West England, was involved in surveying UK bloggers (I’m looking forward to reading results) and is now investigating the possibility of a media accountability platform (see below).

Gilles Bruno, a media blogger based in France, has posted details of the event on his L’Observatoire des Medias site, including a list of participants. He’s also created a Twitter list here. Participants came from a number of different countries, including Germany, Austria, France, Norway and of course, the UK.

On Friday, we shared experiences and thoughts on blogging about media and journalism, touching on regulatory, legal and accountability issues.

Why blog – to set the agenda, earn a living, challenge the mainstream? And what are the quality control issues?

A nice perk was the conference’s location: right by Bristol’s Millennium Square – a fantastic place to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony along with hundreds of others.

NUJ widget

On Saturday, Gary Herman introduced us to the NUJ’s kitemark widget. In my view [I was involved in some of the discussion when I sat on the New Media Industrial Council] it’s a good resource for NUJ members. A site badge provides a way of showing that you’re part of the NUJ, and shows the code members have signed up to. However, as I said at the conference, I don’t think it can possibly solve a wider dispute mediation problem (and, as I understand it, I don’t think the NUJ intends it to). I think any process dealing with those would require significantly more investment of resources and time.

Corrigo

Corrigo, dreamed up by German online journalists Tobias Reitz  and Kersten A. Riechers is a nifty sounding concept for a browser add-in, allowing user annotation of news articles. Their presentation provoked a lively discussion about Corrigo’s likely success in holding journalism to account and problems they might encounter. I’ve seen the launch of numerous accountability tools over the years and many have failed to grow or build a significant user base (Google’s Sidewiki is the most obvious example) but I don’t see that as any reason to stop the conversation and the continual experimentation with technology to develop the media correction process. (Incidentally, Craig Silverman, founder of  Regret the Error and Poynter blogger has an excellent post on improving journalistic corrections on social media here). I do, however, think there will be important legal and ethical considerations to think about: how will they moderate and manage editorial control of user contributions, for example?  Good luck to Tobias and Kersten and I look forward to hearing more on their progress.

Accountability platform

Then to a more interactive session, in which we were asked to think about “creating an international forum for and about bloggers – to share techniques, achievements, problems etc.” This would be part of the MediaAct project. Ideas discussed included the possibility of translating material within a network of European bloggers and developing research among citizens. From a UK perspective, I already feel overloaded with the mass of critical material out there – I’m not sure another media watchdog blog is necessary. Neither do I see the point of replicating information that is already easily accessible online. What would be helpful would be snippet translations in a number of European languages pointing us to stories and initiatives in other countries (and in my area of interest, media legal developments) and greater development of a inter-blogger network – perhaps through more events like the one in Bristol. Additionally, clear objectives need to be defined: in terms of who the target audience for the forum or platform is, what does it want to help bloggers achieve, and how can it do this in a practically useful and time/resource efficient way?

We finished the day with a general discussion on freedom of expression in the online environment. I’ve collected some of the tweets in this Storify. I’ll report further developments on the project in due course.

Thanks to Mike Jempson and Wayne Powell at MediaWise for an excellent weekend.

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