Google News adds unique commenting feature

Google News has launched into a new project that allows the subject in the story to tell his own side.

For anyone who's ever been quoted in a newspaper, you've likely read over the article with great anticipation only to conclude that the reporter completely missed the mark,

or at least neglected something you feel is important to your story. It's human nature. Unfortunately, there isn't much you or the news agency can do to clarify and remedy the miscommunication. Sure, newspapers can, and do, print corrections, but only when there is a factual error in the story, and they hardly rectify the situation. While not a perfect solution, the folks at Google Newshave recently begun soliciting comments from participants and subjects covered by the news report.

The process is clunky--visitors must send an e-mail with their comments and additional information to help verify their identity--but it seems promising. Of course, this means that real humans must sift through all submitted comments to verify who they came from. This process will demand significant staff resources if many people start commenting:
Google works with each author to confirm their identity individually. The means for confirming identity may differ on a case by case basis, but they may include contacting the organization affiliated with the author, contacting local officials, or collaborating with journalists. These are very good, time-honored means for confirming identity but no method is foolproof.
While I love the idea of providing the subject a forum to respond to stories, I'm uncertain it can effectively be implemented by a service that aggregates such a wide swath of stories. Google News doesn't write stories, it relies on computers to aggregate and prioritize the stories it collects from hundreds of news sources. Perhaps Google can inspire the news agencies themselves to implement something similar to this project. Verification of the subject's identity is much easier when the journalist who quoted him is sitting down the hall as opposed to working for a different company. I anticipate that if this initiative does take off, the verification process will be far too demanding for the program to be viable for Google News.
About the author

    Josh Wolf first became interested in the power of the press after writing and distributing a screed against his high school's new dress code. Within a short time, the new dress code was abandoned, and ever since then he's been getting his hands dirty deconstructing the media every step of the way. Wolf recently became the longest-incarcerated journalist for contempt of court in U.S. history after he spent 226 days in federal prison for his refusal to cooperate. In Media sphere, Josh shares his daily insights on the developing information landscape and examines how various corporate and governmental actions effect the free press both in the United States and abroad.


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