Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Who's SpinSpotting Who? -- A Short Play In Three Acts


ACT ONE


Participants at the Demo show include SpinSpotter, a start-up that plans to show an early version of software that is designed to identify bias and inaccuracy in online news stories. The Seattle-based company's Spinoculars program, which is designed to appear as a toolbar on most Web browsers, relies on software and input from its users to find opinionated language, sources with conflicts of interest and an over-reliance on text from corporate and political press releases.

-- The Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2008


ACT TWO

Press release issued on the same day this story appeared...
Leading writers, media critics and journalism professors help establish guidelines for identifying bias in the media

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Today at DEMOfall08, SpinSpotter
unveiled a new online service designed to surface specific instances of bias
and inaccuracy in any news story online. By installing a SpinSpotter toolbar
called Spinoculars, users of the SpinSpotter service can easily see, share,
and edit any clear sign of bias anywhere on the Web.

To develop an objective methodology for identifying media bias,
SpinSpotter executives assembled a team of distinguished writers and
journalists, including professors at some of the country's top journalism
schools. Their expert knowledge, along with the Society of Professional
Journalists' Code of Ethics (http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp), were then
combined with guided user input and sophisticated algorithms to identify each
instance of bias and inaccuracy in online media, whether it is a reporter
stating opinion as fact, an unattributed adjective, a paragraph lifted from a
press release, or an expert source with a clear conflict of interest.

According to studies by the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of Americans
say they want unbiased news, while 66 percent consider the press "one-sided".
And while more Americans (55 percent) trust the military to deliver an
objective view of the war than trust the press' war coverage (42 percent),
only nine percent of journalists are concerned about the media's credibility.

"SpinSpotter considers the press' mission profound: to inform the public
and keep power in check. But there is a major difference between working to
inform and writing to persuade," said Todd Herman, founder and chief product
officer of SpinSpotter. "SpinSpotter makes news reporting transparent while
empowering readers online to see, share, or edit spin -- and ultimately avoid
it. With Spinoculars installed, readers have an editorial seat at the table of
every news page online."

SpinSpotter CEO John Atcheson says the question of media bias is much too
important to be taken lightly. "SpinSpotter will make it harder for people on
both ends of the political spectrum to hurl vague accusations of bias. With
SpinSpotter, we will finally be able to have rational discussions about bias
in the media, informed by SpinSpotter's rigorous analysis."

Chris Shipley, product analyst and executive producer of the DEMO
Conferences, believes SpinSpotter's introduction is particularly timely. "As a
former journalist, I can tell you that SpinSpotter brings much-needed
transparency and accountability to online news media. With all eyes on the
November election, it is particularly important for people to be able to tell
when there might be a hidden agenda at work."

The beta version of Spinoculars can be downloaded starting today at
http://www.spinspotter.com.

About the Company

Based in Seattle, SpinSpotter is led by veteran technology executives and
entrepreneurs who also happen to be self-confessed news junkies. Todd Herman,
the founder, worked as a radio talk show host before launching his first
start-up and then joining MSNBC.com and Microsoft, where he was an executive
for several years. SpinSpotter CEO John Atcheson is a serial entrepreneur who
also served as a senior executive at RealNetworks. The company employs people
of all political and intellectual stripes: Herman is conservative, while
Atcheson is liberal. Initial funding for SpinSpotter was provided by Epic
Ventures and angel investors. For more information, visit
http://www.spinspotter.com.

ACT THREE

Here is a Google News link to all the places that picked up the press release so far about SpinSpotter's Spinoculars software.

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