Today marks the launch of MediaBugs, an online error-reporting service based in Berkeley which will help to monitor Bay Area media for errors and problems.
MediaBugs is the brainchild of Berkeley resident Scott Rosenberg, co-founder of Salon, and author of two books: Dreaming in Code and Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming and Why It Matters. Advisers on the project include Dan Gillmor, Bill Gannon and Lane Becker.
Unlike fact-checking operation Politifact, which has a staff of fact-checkers and recently signed a deal to monitor TV show This Week, MediaBugs relies on the general public to report errors. After someone has reported a “bug” it is posted on the MediaBugs site, which aims to notify the media outlet involved and obtain a response from them. Once a media outlet corrects or otherwise resolves the bug, it will be marked as “closed”.
MediaBugs, which is a non-profit and still in beta mode, received a two-year, $335,000 grant from the Knight News Challenge and is run by Rosenberg along with associate director Mark Follman and developer Ben Brown.
Rosenberg says the goal is to create a pragmatic solution to fixing errors in the media. “Studies show a major and depressing drop in the public’s trust of the media. Part of that is because reporters get stuff wrong, even though journalists don’t like to talk about it.” Rosenberg says there’s no lack of discussion about this problem in the media, on and offline, but few if any practical efforts have been made to address it. He says he wanted to launch something similar as an internal project at Salon, but never got around to it.
The service will cover all media based in the Bay Area which publish nine-county news, as well as sites like Salon and C-Net which don’t necessarily have a local remit. Rosenberg says if the service proves useful, they will roll it out to other cities, and perhaps nationally, depending on demand and funding.
Reported bugs that currently appear on the site include a wrong figure used in a piece on school cutbacks in the San Francisco Chronicle, a wrong location listed in an East Bay Express story on an Andy Warhol-related show, and a “confusing/ ungrammatical” sentence in the Daily Cal.
It goes without saying that Berkeleyside is watching its back.