Assembly line news for a digital age
by Edward Wasserman
July 16, 2012
However droopy the rest of the news business might be, dishonesty has become a growth industry, with a steady churn of mini-scandals involving theft, pillage, and fiction. The latest flap over media fakery concerns Journatic, a six-year-old company that sells news organizations what”™s called hyperlocal coverage, once known as community news.
Journatic”™s approach to journalism is unusual, and it came to light in a recent report on This American Life (TAL), the public radio magazine. TAL”™s chief informant was a cheerful but disgruntled Journatic employee named Ryan Smith.
The Journatic that Smith described is a globalized, Internet-based informational assembly line: U.S. data sources are scraped for micro-news of appeal to neighborhood-sized audiences “” home sales, death notices, Little League scores, police blotter entries, honor rolls, school lunch menus, company press releases.
Sometimes raw items are shipped overseas (to the Philippines, for instance) and shaped by low-paid freelancers, then polished by various stateside editors, and finally channeled to client publications, which print them in neighborhood news sections or post them online.
Other times source materials are handed off to piecework U.S. journalists who are told to make a call or two, add live quotes, and re-file for clients far away. Continue reading “The Journatic Model: Faking the News”