Ben Goldacre wants a "Repository of news ingredients"

Here’s a nice idea from Bad Science blogger Ben Goldacre: a repository of news ingredients:

  • A website that gives each news story a unique ID.
  • Any involved party can add / upload a full press release or quote to that story’s page
  • Anyone can add a link to a primary source
  • Anyone can vote these up or down like on digg/reddit
  • You can register as a “trusted source” and not need to be modded up or down
  • Anyone can add a link to media coverage of that story

You could have a browser plugin that pinged you to the (whatever) site whenever you were reading a piece that was covered there.


  • Journalists could use it to source info in one place
  • Readers could use it to get unmediated / unedited access to full comments from interested parties
  • Involved parties would have a platform for unmediated access too
  • It would be fun and easy for comparing different outlets’ coverage of stories (which a lot of people including me occasionally enjoy doing with Google news search)

It’s a good idea.

I’m not sure how workable using the ‘story’ as the unique unit would be (even with all its processing power, Google News performs patchily on clustering along these lines) – and you could use the unit of the ‘issue’ and build on Wikipedia’s engine, but there are problems with this approach too (although it would be fantastic for SEO).

Another way might be to start from ‘source’ given that so many stories are now single-source, i.e. press releases, reports, research, etc. That would make it easier to relate stories to it and build a patchwork of related sources as Goldacre suggests. Indeed, you could use semantic technology to pick out other sources from relevant stories and automatically add them to the page. Also, if each source has its own page you then start to build a patchwork for cross-referencing and context.

Anyway, it’s out there for discussion and improvement. Ideas?

11 thoughts on “Ben Goldacre wants a "Repository of news ingredients"

  1. Paul Bradshaw

    No – and Wikipedia didn’t invent the wiki! A wiki would be a perfect simple technology for this, but Wikipedia wouldn’t work for it, as many stories would be deemed not significant enough for inclusion.

  2. Howard Lake

    Yes, nice idea from Ben Goldacre. It seems to combine moves toward greater online transparency with the semantic web.

    I agree that the news story should not be the prime focus, as that ignores far too many channels, types of media (voice, audio etc), and formats e.g. blog post, comment, tweet etc. Instead one needs some generic term for content unit, a bit like Drupal’s ‘node’.

    Indeed, ‘news’ would be one of the elements that I’d imagine the semantic web would define a news item by.

    The move to the semantic web is well underway, I believe. Tagging, automated geo-tagging, the upcoming extended tweets (which come with alot more info about the tweet than the 140 character content), WordPress’ classification of blogroll entries etc. So I imagine Dr Goldacre can be confident that his ‘news ingredients’ is in the works.

  3. Martin Moore

    Hi Paul,

    Journalisted has a unique id for each article (‘story’ is alot more tricky, though we’ve talked about how we might do that once journalisted is published in rdf as it soon should be). We now have pingbacks for journalists – not quite the link to media coverage you’re talking about, but could certainly be extended (would probably need to be manual – can’t see how you’d automate this without multiple errors). We’re working on the press release / source stuff – happy to chat about offline. Think the whole ‘how to establish if this is a trusted source’ needs more thought.


  4. Gerard Cunningham

    Okay, I admit my first response was a bit cheeky.

    Seriously though, would the repository include raw materials? Unedited copies of press releases would be worth publishing, if only to give some idea what proportion of news was simple churn. What about raw data from FOI requests? (see for example).
    And perhaps most importantly, the question that haunts all great oinine journalism ideas, who will pay for this wonderful resource?

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  6. Peter Demain

    Sorry to say Paul (and Ben) that my life is already convenient enough; anymore convenient and I’d start to feel all pampered.

    An old moderation system is that of – it has proven effective over the years, and relies heavily on metamoderation to determine who is allocated the mod-points. Those who mod wrongly in theory should get points infrequently, and vice versa.

    -Pete @

    1. Paul Bradshaw

      Yes, Slashdot’s system is pretty well designed and has years of experience behind it you’d struggle to emulate on a human scale. The technical challenge of this idea is interesting though.

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  8. klaus junginger


    have anyone had any experience using Google News´ meta-tags “syndication-source” and “original-source”. They´re being testes since nov.2010 and, effective only in the news channel, shall point out to original publisher whenever the bot verifies that certain content may have been stolen. Got no other word for it. It´s theft.
    I´m not sure if such tags will be affectively used for hard-news, since headlines about a plaaine crash will mostly bring up both kw “plaine” and “Crash”. It´s more likely to assist long-tail/less read/especific content to be indexed in an optimized way. Google bot rarely revists an ordinary page within a news site, of course homepages and other main frames are recrawled many times a minute, so it won´t help for old content. Maybe you colud diplay some links to these older pages on your homepage for a while with the meta-tags in place to see what happens.



  9. Paul Bradshaw

    I’ve not had any experience in using it, I have to say – Martin, who commented in this thread, knows much more. Given how much the media industry steals content from other media, I’m sceptical how workable it is.


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