1. Was there any error or incident that prompted the creation of MediaBugs?
- It was really inspired by my work as managing editor of Salon.com, where I fielded error reports from our readers. I began to think we were doing it inefficiently: I was responding by e-mail individually to readers when what I really wanted to do was post our explanations in public, but we didn't have a mechanism to do that.
- I was working on a book about software development at the time and became familiar with the public bug-trackers that open-source programmers use on their projects.
- I thought it might make a useful model for the newsroom, so we could track problems and also better communicate how we were handling issues readers raised. I never implemented the idea at Salon but it stayed with me and I dusted it off, revised it and proposed it to the Knight News Challenge.
2. How will your site differ from "Regret the Error"?
- Regret the Error is great -- its creator, Craig Silverman, has been one of our advisers at MediaBugs -- but it's primarily made up of reporting about corrections and the issues surrounding corrections. MediaBugs is conceived as a pragmatic solution to a problem -- we hope to demonstrate a new model for improving the feedback loop between the newsroom and the public. So we're more of a hands-on, functioning service rather than a site that covers issues.
3. When the $335,000 in Knight News Challenge money runs out, how will MediaBugs sustain itself?
- We'll either continue the site on a volunteer basis or raise more money if we can. The costs are heaviest in the initial phase of the project (software development and community outreach); running the service isn't as expensive, and if we prove our value I'm confident we can keep it going.