AMES, Iowa -- Today's breaking news is literally a click away for many people who receive their news via computer, cell phone or PDA. But with the rise in online blogs, citizen journalism and amateur reporting, who can tell what's accurate and trustworthy, or just downright bunk?
Michael Bugeja can.
A frequent new media critic, known for his criticism of technology in his award-winning book "Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age" (Oxford, 2005), Bugeja has been named an advisor to www.NewsTrust.net, a nonprofit news network that evaluates news and opinion against core principles of journalism -- such as fairness, accuracy, context and sourcing.
Bugeja, who directs Iowa State University's Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication, joins an accomplished national group of journalists and academic leaders as a NewsTrust.net advisor, editor and reviewer. His peers include representatives from The Associated Press, The Huffington Post, Google News, Public Radio International and Stanford University, among others.
Author of the book "Living Ethics Across Media Platforms" (Oxford, July 2008), which explores how ethical principles enhance the new high-tech media environment, Bugeja says the NewsTrust site serves the public trust by operating on an ethical foundation.
"This ranks among the first uses of technology that advances rather than hinders both journalism and society," Bugeja said. "NewsTrust.net educates as it holds journalism accountable. That's its goal. That's its program. It builds trust in the news. And it serves the public trust."
He was invited to join NewsTrust's team of advisors after speaking on a panel last August at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication convention. When Bugeja and his fellow panelists finished their presentation, a vice president of a media foundation handed Bugeja a slip with Fabrice Florin's contact numbers.
Florin, a former journalist and digital media pioneer at Apple and Macromedia, founded NewsTrust.net in 2005 to help citizens identify quality journalism.
Bugeja says NewsTrust.net came along at the perfect time.
"As newsroom downsizing continues, I believe in time that this will impact the quality of journalism as more reporters look to NewsTrust.net to improve their coverage," he said. "NewsTrust.net serves a need -- the need to instill in beginning journalists a respect for fairness, accuracy and responsibility."
While the Internet provides the public with a wide variety of news, Bugeja points out that it also provides more content that lacks truthfulness and credibility.
"Something needs to be done to preserve the trust the public once had in metropolitan newspapers," he said. "If we can build trust online, people will use their resources to write, edit and advertise on the Internet more effectively."
Bugeja, a nationally known media ethicist, currently is doing research at Iowa State on how revenue follows trust "and not the other way around," one of his chief complaints about convergence in newsrooms.
Bugeja says NewsTrust.net will provide a learning tool for young, aspiring journalists -- both within his own Greenlee School at Iowa State, as well as institutions across the country.
"I envision managing editors using NewsTrust to help educate our students who enter metro newspapers immediately upon graduation," he said. "Only a few years ago, these beginning journalists were called 'cubs' and would not have been allowed to step into the newsroom without five years experience. Now, there are no 'cubs' in the bearish newsroom that operates on scant budgets. Newcomers have to be seasoned quickly, and NewsTrust.net helps in that effort."
Bugeja previously worked as a reporter, correspondent and state editor for United Press International. He is a frequent contributor to The Chronicle of Higher Education.