October 24, 2008

Should CNN be in the Digg business?

That's the question at the heart of my iReport story ("18-year-old planted fake Jobs heart attack post") on Y! Tech today -- a story that I initially worded much more strongly before finally toning it down (chalk it up to too much coffee). Anyway, here's the gist: Should CNN (via its iReport "citizen journalist site") really be dabbling in Digg territory, given that CNN is a major (and supposedly trusted) news brand?

Consider the iReport tagline: "Unfiltered. Unedited. News." Now, I'm fine with the "unfiltered" and "unedited" parts, but "news"? If a given post actually has some basis in fact, then sure -- but as the site itself plainly states (and as the fake Jobs heart attack headline proved), there's no fact-checking going on at iReport. (To be fair, Digg labels its posts as "News, Images, Videos," as well -- then again, Digg doesn't present itself as a global news-gathering organization.)

Don't get me wrong -- I think user-generated sites like Digg are a great way to see what readers are buzzing about. I just think it's dangerous to mistake Digg, iReport, and the like for "news" sites. But by plastering its brand on the iReport home page, CNN is arguably (if inadvertantly) inviting confusion -- and as we learned earlier this month, that confusion has the power to move markets.

To my mind, you can do the CNN or you can do the Digg thing, but you shouldn't do both. Were I king for a day at CNN (hey, why not?), I'd consider implementing some editorial safeguards for the iReport home page (even though that would fly in the face of the whole Digg concept) -- or, even better, leave iReport alone but spin it off into a separate entity, minus the CNN branding.

Anyway, that's my $0.02. Thoughts?

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