MediaBugs, new website for reporting media errors

WASHINGTON, Chris Lefkow - A new website unveiled this week may have journalists in the San Francisco area feeling a bit antsy.
MediaBugs, which went online in beta, or test, mode on Tuesday, is a site whose professed goal is "correcting errors and problems in media coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area."
"All over the Web people are finding problems with news coverage," said founder Scott Rosenberg, an author and former journalist who spent nine years working for the San Francisco Examiner newspaper.

"What you have today, sadly, is a situation where readers, people in the public, don't always feel that they're going to bother reporting an error because they're going to be ignored," Rosenberg told AFP.
"Some news institutions have not made it always so easy to contact them or to find where you'd go to correct an error," he said.
"We're trying to see if we can make this whole area more efficient and do a little something maybe to repair what I see as a breakdown in the relationship between the media and the public," Rosenberg said.
MediaBugs was launched with a 335,000-dollar grant from the Knight News Challenge, a contest organized by the philanthropic Knight Foundation to provide funding for innovative ideas in online news.
Rosenberg, who also co-founded and served as managing editor of the online magazine, said MediaBugs was inspired by the open-source world of software developers.
"Software projects have bug trackers, which are public websites where you can go if you have problems," he said. "And I thought 'What if we think of a way to apply this model to errors in media coverage?'"
Readers who spot errors in a San Francisco media outlet -- be it a blog, a website, a newspaper, a magazine or a television or radio station -- can fill out a form on the MediaBugs site to report the "bug."
MediaBugs will then alert the news outlet to the problem, which must be what the site defines as a "correctable error or problem" and not a "difference of opinion or a matter of debate."
Readers can then track the discussion in what Rosenberg called "a public and transparent exchange."
The founder said news outlets in the San Francisco area have been receptive to the venture, a not-for-profit operation.
"We've spent the last two or three months visiting as many editors and newsrooms in the area as we could," he said. "We've gotten a range of reactions -- some real enthusiasm, some more wait-and-see, no outright slammed doors."
Kathleen Wentz, the managing editor of East Bay Express, which publishes a weekly newspaper and is online at, said her organization has had "one correction through MediaBugs and that worked fine."
She welcomed the arrival of the site although she said she believed that the current corrections system at the East Bay Express "works pretty well."
"I haven't heard from our readers that they have a hard time letting us know about a correction," Wentz said. "There's multiple channels on our website where people can report something, they can write a letter, they can send an email, they can leave a comment."
"It's not like corrections get lost in the shuffle," she said. "That said, if people feel more comfortable using MediaBugs, or it's just another way for people to interact with us and let us know things, I totally welcome that."
While MediaBugs will currently concentrate only on the San Francisco area, Rosenberg said he would be interested in extending its antennas to other places "if we find it's working well here and there's interest in other communities."
"We have to prove what we're doing," he said. "We have to show that it's of value."

Sunday, April 25th 2010
Chris Lefkow

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