Publisher’s Note: We met the Tribeworthy team at the Project Censored 40th anniversary celebration last fall in California. Here’s a “deep dive” into their platform and their vision for blowing up “crowd contested” media – yet another examples of independent grassroots collaborative media production at work in our 21st century.
Q. “Tribeworthy.com” is about “crowd contested” media. Can you define this phrase?
A. The media is no longer a spectator sport. “Crowd contested” media is about empowering people to review online news articles and point out fallacies, biases, and other mistakes for other users to be aware of. The reviews create a trust rating for each article, author, and news outlet, giving news consumers a way to hold news producers accountable for their work. Similar to Yelp and Rotten Tomatoes, we’re creating what we call “the people’s metric.” Most news outlets today focus on traffic metrics such as “likes,” “shares,” and “views” to guide their reporting. Yet, none of these metrics are in the public’s best interest and do nothing to measure a reader’s trust. Our review process provides authors and websites the constructive criticism they need to improve their news gathering and reporting work. This is more urgent than ever, because many websites are removing their comments sections altogether. This means they’ll be relying even more heavily on the traffic metrics that have led to the public’s record level distrust.
Q. Given this definition, why call your news platform “Tribeworthy”? Fascinating name…
A. Tribeworthy is just a play on the word “Trustworthy,” as decided by our “tribe” of users. “Trust” is the keyword here, as opposed to “facts,” because we are not a fact-checking organization. We simply organize and display people’s trust or distrust in a particular article, author, or news outlet.
Q. How did you three meet and come to develop this project?
A. Chase Palmieri (CEO), Jared Fesler (Brand Manager), and Austin Walter (Lead Developer) met during college where we did various projects together. Chase is a news junkie and was searching for a platform where he could review the news and see other people’s reviews. When we couldn’t find any such platform, we decided to build it ourselves. We quit our jobs, moved in together, and haven’t looked back since.
Q. The phrase “fake news” is much in vogue these days. What do you make of this phrase? How do you define it?
A. We were working on Tribeworthy long before the term “fake news” went mainstream. We don’t find the term helpful because it only addresses outright misinformation. Tribeworthy’s review process aims to point out less malicious reporting, such as the use of logical fallacies, bias, or mistakes. For example, our users can identify a straw man fallacy, a gender bias, or a misused term within an article. We want people to identify any and all problems they find in an author’s reporting, not just articles written purely to misinform. We want reporters to remain as objective and logical as possible in their reporting, but someone could reference our rating page if they think they’d found a piece of “fake news.”
Q. How might Tribeworthy offer a solution to so-called “fake news”?
A. We do not claim to be a solution to “fake news,” nor do we believe there will ever be a solution to “fake news.” Anyone can create content online, so we focus on trying to raise the standards of the content that is being produced. For example, Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t stop terrible films from being made, but people who reference the Rotten Tomatoes rating can avoid certain films and even warn others not to go see them. We envision the same behavior with Tribeworthy’s ratings.
Q. We at The Vermont Independent believe that grassroots local news production and community building is one critical solution to what our friends at Project Censored call our “Truth Emergency.” What’s your read on independent news?
A. Independent and decentralized news is the future, but it’s hard for those outlets right now because many people won’t bother reading something from a site they don’t already know and trust. That’s something Tribeworthy will be able to help with, because a user can look at the news outlet’s rating page to quickly get an idea of how trustworthy that source is. It’s also worth mentioning that our news feed only displays an article’s headline and rating, which creates a level playing field for big name outlets like the New York Times to compete head on with smaller, independent news outlets. The article that is contested the least by our users will be rewarded with a higher rating and therefore a higher click through rate.
Q. Speak about “critical media literacy education.” How do you define CMLE and what role do you see it playing in our current culture?
A. Critical media literacy education is the most under-taught and undervalued skill in society today. We do everything we can to support formal media literacy education, and Tribeworthy is being used in many classrooms across the country today. With that said, we believe critical media literacy needs to go mainstream. It’s not meant to be locked away in the ivory towers of academia, it’s meant to be practiced and protective of as many people as possible. We want to make media literacy scalable. We also believe the next wave of social media will be platforms that promote and help discover public intellectuals.
Q. How can folks support Tribeworthy? Give us some opportunities here.
A. We are interested in inviting everyone to the crowd contested media movement, but especially those who review three to five articles a week. Users should also be sure not to miss our weekly newsletter, The Tribeworthy Newsroom, by following us on Facebook and Twitter. Each Friday, we send out the top articles from our platform straight to their inbox. They will be able to see articles with the most reviews, best comments and highest Newsworthy rating.
We expect people to be skeptical of our platform, but we hope they will try it for themselves and bear in mind that giving people a voice is a good thing. The alternatives are waiting for Facebook and Google to save the day, or do nothing in the face of online journalism’s race to the bottom.
Q. Anything else we should know?
A. In the near future, we’ll be introducing the Tribeworthy Browser Extension. If a user downloads the extension, they’ll be able to take the protective ratings and review tools with them wherever they go online. That means a person can land on an article, and if it’s been rated in our database, they’ll get a pop-up showing them the rating details. It also means a user can review any article they come across online, all without even visiting our website. The goal is to provide news consumers with these tools no matter where they are.
We’d also like to thank those who are quickly becoming leaders in the “crowd contested media” movement. Deborah Pardes of Arresting Knowledge is on a national tour where she’s encouraging people to use Tribeworthy. Mickey Huff of Project Censored has been an amazing resource and continues to introduce us to leaders in the media literacy community. And of course, thanks to professors such as yourself for bringing Tribeworthy into the classroom so students can arm themselves with the tools that future generations will be taking for granted.
Click here to find out more about Tribeworthy.