Issue: Does a funky new website point to the future of journalism?
Commentary by: David Vinjamuri
There’s something new, and distinctly odd, out there on the frontiers of the Internet.Â The site Truemors aims to empower ordinary citizens to spread, well, rumor.Â Ideally those that are true.Â Anyone can contribute, and the rules are simple – write stuff that is actually true and don’t break the law.Â The result is a very eclectic stream of information which users can rate, and thus sort.Â What rises to the top is the stuff the most people believe – or like.
Whether Truemors will prosper remains to be seen. But the central idea behind it – that citizens can report information directly on a joint forum – is an intriguing step forward.Â The success of blogs has proven that credible reporting need not come from the most established sources.Â Even mainstream media like CNN and Fox have solicited and run video taken by eyewitnesses.Â Truemors tries to take the process a step further, shoving the microphone directly into the hands of the average joe.
Part of the concept has already been proven.Â Perhaps one of the most important developments on the Internet has been the rise of social bookmarking with sites like Digg, Del.icio.us, and Stumble Upon.Â These sites allow ordinary people to organize the Internet by explicitly selecting and tagging sites they deem worthy.Â It is a much stronger approach than Google search for finding contextual information when it works, and it is one of the core ideas behind the Web 2.0 concept.
Truemors, founded by entrepreneurial guru Guy Kawasaki (The Art of the Start)Â along with Will Mayall and Kathryn Henkens faces a high hurdle (and indeed some initial skepticism from luminaries like Seth Godin).Â The result of putting publishing power into the hands of absolutely everyone is chaotic (a recent scan of the homepage contrasted stories on Dora the Explorer and the Liberty bell with an expose on a couple charged in an identity theft case.
Beyond the marketing question of whether Truemors will catch on is the bigger question of whether unmoderated citizen journalism will degenerate into gossip and innuendo or whether a Wikipedia-like effect will raise the level of contributions.Â Voting on posts creates a ‘greatest’ list which is placed above the running list of posts.Â But ‘greatest’ may be more like ‘best of craigslist’ than a highly combed-over Wikipedia entry: it may be more about entertainment value than accuracy.
In truth, Truemors may have just reinvented the oldest network of all – the ancient marketplace where news, gossip, rumor and innuendo walked hand in hand.