My friend Seth Effron in North Carolina has been handed a dream assignment: figure out how to repurpose some campus buildings to help serve the cause of good journalism. Here is my dream for his project:

 Create the one and only tech hub devoted to creating journalism apps that are actually in the interest of the journalists and the public, instead of the advertiser/propagandists or those simply measuring and promoting what is “popular” and “trending” on the Internet? In other words,use part of your space for hackathons or steady work where developers would make new apps or programs that would create:

–A better word processing/editing program than Word for text, plus affordances that enable linkages and embedded video/photos more easily, including CREDITS

–A true micropayments system so that people would pay pennies (dimes?)  for articles, where the cost of processing the payment would be minimized so the payments could be truly low cost. This could help support the authors rather than the thieves like Huffington Post.

–A pedigree branding system for journalism pieces that is like a “good housekeeping seal of approval”  or the logo for “free trade” coffee/chocolate, which would be signifying voluntary membership by journalists/content providers, asserting they are working according to certain ethical standards. This would help consumers find and value this content over less reliable content. 

— an “origin”  tag, brand or logo for each participating piece of information moving through the food chain that would enable viewers to know where it originally came from. It could be included in the branding tag (above), put on as a news flash/photo/video originates and that continues to be embedded in the news content as it works through the food chain

–tags, brands or imbedded logos that indicate some of the important sources of the info (tags that are links perhaps to the original documents/videos)

 I kept hoping when I was managing a Knight Foundation Challenge grant at the MIT Media Lab that some of the students would be interested in such projects, but they were more interested in non-journalism tools and practices, building devices without much regard to the actual social need for their functions. Maybe in North Carolina Seth can turn that around, and start with the functional challenges to support good journalism from all sources.

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