I had a story published in a national paper today. As usual, I was chuffed to see my byline and popped out to the shop to buy a copy (I usually read the press online). On my return, I sifted through my emails and saw I had a Google Alert to say I'd been listed on NewsCred. I'd never heard of NewsCred before so naturally I toddled over there to have a look. It's a Web 2.0 site, still in beta, that picks up stories from all the main international newspapers and lets site members rate them. So far, so good.
Except that the ranking system is based on people voting one of two ways: Credit means you rate the story as credible and of good quality; Discredit means you consider it to be biased and factually inaccurate.
I saw that 8 people had already voted on my story, two of whom had chosen to discredit it. That would have been fair enough had I been writing a straight news story but in this case my feature was about a product, so of course there was going to be some bias in it - it's virtually impossible to appraise something and not come down on one side of it or the other. You look at the product from as many angles and viewpoints as possible, test it as much as you can and draw a conclusion. You like it, or you don't. Or you maybe say it has some good points but flag up the minuses while doing so.
Reviewing has been around since newspapers were invented. It doesn't matter what's being reviewed - opera, exhibitions, pop groups, restaurants or products of some sort. At some point the reviewer is going to bless it with a yay or a nay. It therefore seems ridiculous that NewsCred allows its users to "discredit" a story it's scooped up that is not hard news but a review of something because whichever way you slice, there will be bias in there.
In my favour, the product I wrote about was not thrust on me by some fawning PR desperate for some coverage. I stumbled across a mention of the product, was intrigued enough to look up the maker's website, liked what I saw, picked up the phone and asked nicely if I could have a sample and then started pitching once I'd tried it out and felt it deserved some coverage. I actually could find almost nothing bad to say about this particular product despite putting it through its paces.
So - track me down on on NewsCred and shoot me for writing a feature based on a product review.
What do you all think? Should NewsCred be able to discredit review features? Might it besmirch a journalist's otherwise good name and credibility for writing reviews?