The Trust Project is an international consortium of news organizations building standards of transparency and working with technology platforms to affirm and amplify journalism’s commitment to transparency, accuracy, inclusion, and fairness so that the public can make informed news choices. The consortium designed a system of “Trust Indicators” — that is, standardized disclosures about the news outlet, the journalist, and the commitments behind their work — to make it easy for the public to identify trustworthy news. The Trust Project used Schema.org vocabularies to create a standardized technical language and structured data markup for news media web pages. Digital platforms, including Google, Facebook, and others, use indicators and the machine-readable signals associated with them to more easily surface, display or label trustworthy news to their users.
The initiative was started in 2014, long before the trust in news crisis after the 2016 elections, by award-winning journalist and Knight fellow Sally Lehrman. She wanted to tackle burgeoning and chaotic news ecosystem, in which it’s difficult to parse truth from falsehood, wisdom from spin. I worked with Lehrman and her team as an advisor since 2015 to help her with the technical aspects of the project and set up an organizational framework for the Trust project.
Deepnews.ai seeks to surface quality journalism using machine learning and algorithms with a goal to restore the economic value of good journalism. The platform analyzes news articles based on the range of quality signals and then generates a unique score for each article. The project envisions several applications of the scoring system for the recommendation engines, personalization, curation, new editorial products and in advertising. Deepnews.ai’s scoring system will interface with ad servers to assess the value of a story and price and serve ads accordingly. The higher a story’s quality score, the pricier the ad space adjacent to it can be.
The initiative was started by a veteran journalist and editor from France, Frederic Filloux, who was JSK fellow in 2017 and then JSK senior research fellow at Stanford, appointed to work on this project. I worked with Filloux and his team as an advisor since 2017 to help him with the technical aspects as well as with the strategic flow of the project.
Investigative Editing Corps
Investigative Editing Corps connects experienced investigative editors with local newsrooms to produce local investigative stories. The initiative was started by Rose Ciotta, a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative editor, who piloted the IEC model with two newsrooms in 2017, the Olean (New York) Times Herald and the Beaver County Times (Pennsylvania). The Times produced a multimedia series on the impact of the opioid crisis, while The Herald ran an expose of deplorable rental housing conditions, and won an award in investigative reporting – the first in its history. Ciotta was a Knight fellow and recipient of the Jim Bettinger grant for news innovation, and I worked with her as an advisor since 2017 to help the strategic flow of the project.
Spaceship Media is a nonprofit journalism startup focused on fostering conversations between people of different political and socioeconomic viewpoints. This approach brings together people with opposing viewpoints for civil discussions in the Facebook Groups environment. Spaceship’s efforts gained broader recognition with The Alabama/California Project, a month-long moderated conversation following the 2016 presidential election, that brought together 25 Alabama women who voted for Donald J. Trump and 25 California women who voted for Hillary Clinton. Jeremy Hay was a Knight fellow and recipient of the Jim Bettinger grant for news innovation, and I worked with him as an advisor since 2017 to help launch the project.
The Bell is a bilingual Russian English news startup centered around an online newsletter and messaging services, focused on the range of topics essential to understanding Russia in the globalized context. Despite the current financial sustainability challenges for journalism, the project is relying on a business model that can directly serve the audience and can avoid any government control. The newsletter is conversational and explanatory, providing simple to understand context on why each news story is important for the audience. The company was founded by Elizaveta Osetinskaya, JSK fellow and former editor in chief of RBC Media, who was abruptly fired in 2016, a few weeks after RBC was the only major Russian news outlet to run the Panama Papers’ revelations regarding Putin’s inner circle. I worked with Elizaveta to help her conceptualize and launch the project.
Sahar Speaks provides training, mentoring and publishing opportunities to female Afghan reporters to work for the international press. Sahar Speaks alumnae have gone on to work for The New York Times, the BBC, Al Jazeera, and other news organizations. Sahar Speaks was developed by Amie Ferris-Rotman, JSK fellow and a British-American journalist with over a decade of foreign reporting experience, from more than a dozen countries. She spent two years in Afghanistan as a Reuters senior correspondent.
Tribal News Network, an independent news agency in Pakistan that serves Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. TNN produces five-minute daily radio news bulletins in the Pashto language and distributes them to a network of radio stations in the KP area, and online (www.tnn.com.pk)in Pashto, Urdu, and English. News bulletins are also delivered to the audience via telephone in tribal areas where the government does not allow a free press.
Developed by a JSK fellow Sam Stewart, Verified Pixel is a tool that helps verify user-generated pictures. Verified Pixel works along the same lines as ordering an airplane ticket from a service like Priceline or Kayak: incoming images are automatically sent to a series of services, each focusing on a different aspect of verification. In the initial prototype phase, we focused on three external services – the Izitru service for testing whether an image has been tampered with in programs like Photoshop, Google reverse image search (it’s the camera icon when you search for images), the TinEye reverse image search service, and internal libraries for reading the metadata that is encoded by default in most smartphones, including the location where the image was taken. I worked closely with Stewart and mentored him during the development stages.