Image courtesy Michael Vadon

Can We Crowd-Source Journalism?

Posted July 04, 2016
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Whenever I travel, (and we travel a lot), and I am in search of a new restaurant, I end up consulting Yelp or Tripadvisor.

When I need to buy a new blender, I alway end up making my decision based on the comments of other users.  

Let's face it, you are going to buy the blender that has 5 stars (or four and a half - some people are never satisfied) over the one that has one or two.  

Last week I had root canal - so far, so good, but I could not help but google my dentist and was delighted to see that he also got 4.5 (or was it 4.75)

Pretty much everything we do now is driven by what we might call 'user participatory comments'.  Hotels, airlines, books, restaurants, stores, clothing and even dentists, apparently.

I don't think anyone really pays attention to the advice of 'professional' critics, do they?  

I mean, if you are deciding what movie to go see this weekend, do you really care what Richard Corliss (is he still around?) has to say, or do you check out, say Rottentomatoes. com and see how the movie scored? And what the comments were.

We are rapidly leaving (and in many cases have already left), the world of 'professional critic'.

Thus, it strikes me as somewhat strange that we have yet to apply this most effective (and popular) mechanism of social scoring (and really decision making) to what are the most important issues that we face - namely politics.

While most travel professionals and movie critics have, if not been driven entirely from newspapers (and if most newspapers have not been entirely driven out of business), they are certainly eclipsed by  crowd source opinion - which tends to be more right than wrong.

Isn't it better to have the experiences (at a hotel, say) of 500 (or 5000) people to draw upon (Tripadvisor), than the perspective of one probably deeply jaded (and by now well-recognized) professional?

I have to admit that when I check out a hotel on Tripadvisor, even if it has 499 5 -star ratings (excellent), I am still complelle to read the lone 1-star (terrible), just top get a sense of what ever was 'the worst'.  

Generally, it is not all that bad. (The concierge was mean to me and gave us a bad room).

All this brings me back to politics and election and important decisions.

While the newspapers still run Thomas Freedman and his opinions (along with the rest), would it not be far more interesting to read ratings of, say Donald Trump or Brexit, with extensive comments, just like Tripadvisor.  You could call it Poladvisor, or something like that.

This, of course, brings us to television and video (our area of particulary interest).  While, I think, every TV news program has now dispensed with their movie critic (farewell Gene Shalit), they still bloviate about poltiical things and offer their opinions, either directly or indirectly.

This, like the restaurant critic, is but one opinion.

When it took a few hundred million dollars to get on the air, and no one else could, I suppose this was the best we could hope for.

But that, clearly, is no loger the case.

Just turn on your iPhone and start streaming - or shoot some video and cut it and share it with the world. There are lots and lots of platforms.

Selfies are interesting (once, maybe), but they don't do a whole lot to contribute to public discourse or the general welfare.  But your views and opinions might.. and should.

If you feel compelled enough to write up how good or bad your new blender is, you might be equaly compelled to video up how good or bad a candidate for President  or Brexit is.

Don't you think?


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