Promoting Credible Internet Journalism

Recent investigations by federal officials found more than 800 web sites and newsgroups with questionable information about six major medical conditions. The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against 44 stock promoters that paid online investment "experts" to rave about their companies' stocks.

Concerns about developments such as these have led Knight Foundation to fund two initiatives moving the field of online journalism toward establishing voluntary standards ensuring the credibility of information on the Internet:

  • The Foundation has joined with the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Open Society Institute to provide $4.8 million to fund the Consumers Union's Web Credibility Project.
  • Knight has also awarded $225,000 to the Online News Association (www.journalists.org) for its Web Credibility Study on the credibility and values for online journalism.

Consumers Union tackles Web credibility

The CU's Web Credibility Project aims to establish, promote and win adherence for core standards to help ensure the credibility of information on the Internet.

The Web Credibility Project will also develop effective voluntary standards and best practices for credible information and information disclosure on the Web, and work with other organizations to promote them and encourage Web publishers to adopt them.

Education of consumers is another primary goal of the project, which will seek to inform consumers about how to evaluate the information practices of Web sites, and ensure the information they obtain is reliable and trustworthy.

The initiative will examine broad trends and underlying business models on the Web as well as specific information practices on health, finance, travel, consumer shopping and journalism sites. The findings will be reported to the public through Consumer Reports magazine, Consumer Reports Online, and CU's other media and publications.

Consumer Reports Online (www.consumerreports.org) will evaluate the disclosure policies and credibility of information of selected Web sites and report the findings through its e-Ratings.

ONA begins Internet Journalism study

The Online News Association's Web Credibility Study has been designed to develop and promote principles and guidelines for online journalism.

The ONA has retained Howard Fineberg, president of Digital Futurist Consultancy, and Martha Stone, president of Whole Media Consulting, to direct the study on the credibility of and values for online journalism.

The study will focus on proper relationships between editorial content, advertising and e-commerce; the development of ethical standards and avoidance of conflicts of interest; and appropriate use of hyperlinking in a journalistic environment.

\"As digital media become a common news resource, it is important that the ONA address the issues that pertain to online journalists,\" said Stone.

Research for the yearlong study will include interviews with journalists, academics, lawyers, marketers, and technologists discussing setting guidelines for online journalism. This feedback will be compiled into a report with recommendations for enforcement of principles and guidelines to set a standard for online news integrity.

\"The results generated from ONA panel discussions and research will provide a foundation for the ongoing discussions regarding credibility in this very new medium. It is a chance to help shape solid journalistic practices early,\" said Finberg.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.