PunditFact and a battle of the billionaires

It’s been a big few weeks for old and new media. Here’s some of the best stuff we’ve come across over the past fortnight, including the new PolitiFact website promising to hold pundits accountable, the Guardian defending it's integrity and a journalism project funded by the founder of eBay. 

Pulitzer-Prize winning PolitiFact (which recently launched in Australia) has announced PunditFact, a sister website dedicated to checking the veracity of statements made by US media commentators. Although the website already occasionally fact-checks pundits, staffers will now be dedicated to vetting everyone from Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter to Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart (sometimes).

PolitiFact has generated a lot of interest since its launch and seems to have had a positive effect on informing public discourse, but will the pundit fact-checking have the same effect without a political opponent to jump on the findings? Time will tell, but more accountability seems like a positive step forward.

We previously wrote about the Edward Snowden–led NSA surveillance revelations and what they say about journalism today, but the fire was re-ignited this week as the Daily Mail used an editorial to refer to The Guardian (which broke the news) as “the paper that helps Britain’s enemies". In an emphatic response, the paper collected responses from more than 30 editors and newspaper publishers from mastheads around the world including Der Spiegel, Le Monde, The New York Times, BuzzFeed (yes, BuzzFeed) and Australia’a Fairfax Media and Crikey.

The man at the centre of it all, Glenn Greenwald also wrote a scathing column, suggesting that the interests of establishment journalists were so enmeshed with the government that they could no longer inform the public in a way that served the media’s watchdog function.

This was, it turns out, a parting shot by Greenwald as news leaked out this week that the reporter is starting a new investigative, independent journalism venture with the financial backing of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. With more than a quarter of a billion dollars behind the project, this seems to have set up a media battle of the billionaires between Omidyar and Jeff Bezos, the new owner of the Washington Post. But, the differences are stark. Omidyar plans to be heavily involved in the project unlike Bezos who seems unwilling to rock the boat too much at this stage. And Omidyar will be building something from scratch using his experience with news ventures such as Civil Beat.

Details are still emerging but the venture will be a mass media product, covering everything fit to print (hard news, sports, business, entertainment, technology etc.) but will have investigative journalism in its DNA and will be all-digital. These massive injections of capital show the media business is certainly not dead yet, but all eyes will be on these two examples over the coming months and years to see what model will be most effective (or which will be effective at all) in remaining profitable while still striving to fulfil a public service role.

Last but not least, plenty of us get our breaking news from those that we follow on Twitter, but will the new Event Parrot project help bring the micro-blogging service into the mainstream by showing us what’s news regardless of who we follow? That might help silence critics who say Twitter is ruining America.

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