Police the media – keeping writers honest

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Interesting new idea, MediaBugs.org, a site that isn’t really up and running yet, but has an idea worth mulling over. They want us, the public to police us, the media. If you’re a writer, then technically speaking, whether or not you’re a journalist, you’re part of communication media. MediaBug claims to be setting up a website where we can create “trouble tickets” about media errors we find in newspapers, magazines, websites, et al.

It goes like this – the organization says software bugs are programming or coding errors that make software behave badly. Their idea of a media bug is an error in reporting or writing that needs fixing. In whose estimation? Yours, mine, evidently.

How will Media Bug work?

So, they are creating a mega-web (like Examiner.com, About.com and so forth) that has local portals where readers can create a troulbe ticket that might say, “Roger Ebert, in his Chicago SunTimes review of Harry Potter’s latest film, incorrectly said Julia Roberts played Hermione.”

Not that Ebert ever did or would, but you get the picture. Personally, I can see that working if a serious misreport is at issue. It might be nice to find a research group that would go back to the sources and get the story right. Media Bug claims they won’t exactly do the research, but will post the error, notify the publication, if they can, and hope for a response.

Call me a cynic, but I have some doubt as to whether the complaints logged in will be a lot more than nags about spelling and punctuation errors. Yes, that’s important, it is our language and it deserves respect and proper usage, but how much time do we want to spend policing it?

How Media Bug will impact media

I wonder if the publications who printed the original errors will be much interested in righting their wrongs. The water will have passed under the bridge. The ad revenues will have been collected, and in an era where major pubs like the Chicago Tribune are dumping their copy desks and proofers right and left (have a look at this article) , how big is the concern for accuracy. I said I was a cynic, didn’t I?

Media Bug has an FAQ on their “under construction” site – you might find it worth a read. If this web project works out, it may be one more step toward citizen journalism, for good or for not so good. It may turn out to be an international copy desk. If it doesn’t work out, the worst it’ll be is a bit of wasted bandwidth.

What’s your take on it?

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