User talk:AaronSw/SourceWatch goals
Thanks for your kind welcome. I was curious if the SourceWatch had an intended target or use. It seems to me that what is most needed is a resource where journalists, critical thinkers, and media critics, can quickly type in the name of an "expert" or organization and find out about their background, funding, and accuracy of past assertions. To achieve this, it seems best to have a focused, inverted pyramid style that does not shy away from making strong claims when backed by the evidence.
But that's not what I see here. Instead, SourceWatch seems to be filled with long excerpts from historical or biographical information, mixed with information copied from Wikipedia. Specific allegations or generalizations are rare.
Is this incidental or is it the goal? I want to create the wiki I describe above, and I'd love to do it here if that's appropriate, but now I'm wondering if this might be the wrong place. AaronSw 18:35, 2 Jun 2004 (EDT)
- It seems to me that what is most needed is a resource where journalists, critical thinkers, and media critics, can quickly type in the name of an "expert" or organization and find out about their background, funding, and accuracy of past assertions. To achieve this, it seems best to have a focused, inverted pyramid style that does not shy away from making strong claims when backed by the evidence.
- But that's not what I see here. Instead, SourceWatch seems to be filled with long excerpts from historical or biographical information, mixed with information copied from Wikipedia. Specific allegations or generalizations are rare.
I think that's a more or less fair criticism of the current state of the SourceWatch, but bear in mind that it's still a fairly new project. We launched it a little over a year ago, and although quite a bit of information has been added quantitatively, we're still a long way from where I'd like us to be in terms of the quality of articles. Hopefully that will come with time, as the number of contributors grows.
If you want to know my personal vision for the SourceWatch, I initially envisioned it as an open source extension of a project that we launched on the PR Watch website several years ago called the "Impropaganda Review, which you can find at the following URL:
Each article in the Impropaganda Review is a profile of some industry front group or anti-environmental think tank, which we researched and wrote ourselves. Each article contained the following structure:
- Description of the organization
- One or more case studies, showing how the organization has promoted misleading information
- Contact Information
- Related Resources
The problem with the Impropaganda Review was that writing each article took a lot of our staff time, which was bound to increase over time because each article needs periodic updating in order to stay current. The staff of the Center for Media & Democracy was only able to write a handful of profiles, and there are literally thousands of groups and individuals that we feel deserve to be profiled. After hearing about the Wikipedia, we were impressed with its success as a model of public, collaborative research, so we decide to transfer the information already in the Impropaganda Review into a wiki so that we could invite other people to contribute.
As it happens, we launched the SourceWatch at about the same time that the Bush administration launched the war with Iraq, as a result of which many of the contributors here have focused on propaganda and disinformation specifically related to the war. This is certainly understandable, but it's a little different from the focus I originally imagined. Also, some people have added information that comes directly from the websites of the front groups that we seek to profile, without necessarily providing independent or critical analysis of those groups and their often self-serving claims.
I don't see this as a problem at this point, because as I stated above, the SourceWatch is still fairly new, and we always expected it would take awhile to mature. Although the articles are currently uneven in quality, I think there are also some articles that are pretty good, such as for example the articles on Richard Perle or the European Science and Environment Forum. I've glanced over some of your contributions, and it looks to me like they're in line with what we're hoping people will contribute.
Basically, my idea of an ideal SourceWatch article is that it should be as succinct as possible, that it should avoid gratuitous rhetoric but shouldn't pull punches when it comes to exposing front groups, industry-friendly experts and other contemporary propagandists, and that the claims made in the article should be thoroughly supported and documented. Of course, there are bound to be disagreements among SourceWatchns over interpretation, editorial style and other matters, but I think overall the project has been moving in the right direction, and I certainly welcome any contributions that you can make that move us there more quickly.
--Sheldon Rampton 21:22, 2 Jun 2004 (EDT)
Thanks for your comforting note. I didn't mean my above comments as a criticism; I understand that making such a site would take a lot of time. I just wondered that if by making the articles more aggressive, I went against the intentions of the site's creators. Judging from the excellent Impropaganda Review, it seems that it would not. Wonderful; I look forward to improving and contributing to the SourceWatch. AaronSw 21:29, 2 Jun 2004 (EDT)