Santa Clara University

Curating and Promoting News Important to Civil Society

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Anthony Moor, Director of Editorial Operations, Yahoo!
2013 Digital Journalism Ethics Roundtable

Whether digital news is ranked and delivered via algorithmic or curatorial processes, values are going to be part of the equation, said Anthony Moor, director of editorial operations at Yahoo! in a presentation at the 2013 Digital Journalism Ethics Roundtable. Both systems for determining what is “news” can downplay more challenging but necessary information.

Moor pointed out that the measures used to determine content ranking contain implicit values. Clicks, click-through rates, and dwell-time measures put the emphasis on what users like. Those preferences may not encompass information that readers really need to know, Moor said.

Similarly, audience input through “likes” and “shares” can be used to raise the ranking of certain content, but these measures, too, may privilege entertainment over utility. Social media measures such as “trending” topics have similar effects.

Complicating the picture, Moor continued, is the hyper-personalization of online content. Sites such as Yahoo! feature articles based on what they know about the user's age, marital status, preferences, and other personal information. This kind of news, "the daily me," may weaken civil society because it fails to provide the shared information citizens need to make collective decisions.

The challenge for journalists, Moor concluded, is to make what readers need to know also what they want to know.

April 2013