As communication technologies have evolved over the past decade, traditional news companies are being replaced by blogs and user generated content.
Many traditional new companies consisted of full time reporters, who would submit news stories to a central editor. An editor would decide which stories to publish, usually following the theme of a newspaper.
As internet use has proliferated, many people are turning to non-traditional sources for their news. Many internet users rely on websites such as Reddit or Digg for news stories. These websites allow users to vote on submitted content, with the most popular content reaching the front page.
One of the negative aspects of user-submitted content is the loss of objectivity. Many of the stories that reach the front page of Reddit are sensational, or appease to a common belief set of readers. Many users on Reddit vote up stories they agree with, which leads to them only seeing content and news stories that follow their values.
While it’s impossible to have a completely objective and neutral news source, many editors tried to present as many viewpoints as possible on a story. An editor would try to step back, and ignore his or her preconceptions on a subject, allowing reporters to submit viewpoints that differed from the editor’s values.
With user generated content, the public becomes the editor. While democracy is usually a good thing, democracy in the news may lead to a less objective source of information. As users vote up stories they agree with, they only see more content they agree with. They reinforce ideas and values that they already believe in, and lose the ability to see news from other viewpoints.
Many companies and individuals are working to help incorporate more viewpoints into user generated news websites. One idea is to ‘seed’ these websites with random stories that provide high quality content from a different viewpoint. Since different users will vote for stories in different ways, an intelligent voting algorithm can present a website viewer with content that others voted for, but they did not. This allows people to see stories that other people enjoyed reading, while allowing them to expand their perceptions and values to include ideas from other people. In addition, the stories that they vote for and submit are provided for other viewers, allowing a comprehensive set of value to be presented to website viewers.