'Kitemark' could distinguish journalism from 'web noise'

A ‘digital kitemark’ to differentiate quality journalism from ‘the noise of the web’ should be introduced, according to a new report published this week.

Other recommendations from What’s Happening to Our News, an independent report carried out for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, include tax breaks for newspapers, and more easily accessible public information.

The kitemark could be visual and electronic – for example, via embedded meta-data – according to the report, published tomorrow.

‘A digital kitemark… would identify and differentiate professional journalism amidst the noise of the web,’the report says.

‘Paired with a kitemark, an indicator of digital transparency could convey to the audience that the content offered on a website had been subjected to a rigorous series of checks, and further, had been created by a professional journalist employed to write in a specific field of coverage – as opposed to a blogger, writing for free and outside any formal editorial process or code of conduct.

‘As we suggested earlier, this strategy might also serve to sharpen the general ‘brand’ of professional journalism.

‘In our view, the transparent labelling of news content would convert the news media into a more visual and navigable form–on which citizens would be able to make more informed decisions about their social, economic and political lives.”

The report also suggests a review of newspaper tax. It suggests that VAT on digital advertising could be scrapped, tax on digital income could be reduced, and other tax breaks offered to news media.

‘The purpose would be to minimise the current disparity between the costs and revenue-generating potential of news websites,’the report says.

The government should also review newspapers’ charitable status, which, at present, means it is hard for them to benefit from philanthropy.

‘In the United States, for example, the situation is radically different,’the report says.

‘There, a variety of richly endowed charitable organisations provide support and funding for journalism and the news media in all their guises, through training, awards, research, grants, fellowships and bursaries. There are no comparable examples in the UK.

‘We do not pretend to imagine that changes in UK charity law will trigger a surge of philanthropy, thereby saving journalism overnight.

‘Nonetheless, a simplification of the rules surrounding charitable giving may provide a valuable impetus to news media-related philanthropy.”

The report concludes by saying more public information should be made more easily available.

‘The UK government can contribute to the development of better informed citizens, and a more networked Fourth Estate, in two critical ways,’the report says.

‘The first is simply by releasing more data in more easily accessible electronic formats about the structure, operation and performance of publicly funded bodies.

‘The second way the government can accelerate the development of a more transparent and distributed form of news media is by opening itself to more inquiry and engagement through the power of digital technology.

‘By reconfiguring internal systems and rendering transparent the labyrinthine structure of government decision-making, both Houses of Parliament could achieve a new level of interactivity with UK citizens.”

The report used interviews with 70 figures, including editors, journalists, academics, MPs and regulators. It will be launched at tomorrow’s Oxford Media Convention.

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