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Factless News Filter

Just the facts, please.
  (+36, -5)(+36, -5)(+36, -5)
(+36, -5)
  [vote for,

Glancing over the Google News page today, I was annoyed with the number of news stories with the words "may" "could" and "might" right in their titles. I'd love a filter that looks for words indicating fact, not opinion. Such a filter should also scan the article and look for phrases like "experts say" and words like "reportedly" and either highlight them as suspicious or just remove the story from the list. Titles with a question mark would be excluded as well.

Of course, the ideal service would have intellegent people read the stories and remove any article that doesn't actually report anything, but it would save me time to even have a basic automatic filter.

Worldgineer, Sep 29 2006

Reuters' Editorial Policy http://about.reuter.../aboutus/editorial/
[zen_tom, Oct 06 2006]


       I tend to skim over these types of articles in the daily community news sections of my newspapers and media reports, and so I certainly see your point. Conversely, "could", "may", "might", and "experts say" are exactly the kind of words I seek out when scanning the business pages for fresh investing ideas. In that context I find the vocabulary quite useful as an indicator of potentially rewarding areas to further investigate. But that's probably just me ... and 2.7 million other Wall Street Journal readers.
jurist, Sep 30 2006

       Name it "Freedom of the RSS"
reensure, Oct 01 2006

       I'd be interested to see a total disconnect of facts on a broadcast channel. Three layers:
1. A text reader, as in the WPI ticker
2. A video -- stripped of voiceover
3. Audio transmission from the director of news distribution at the station.

       Then you might see:
1. (scrolling text) Bridge closed on Highway 62 -- traffic diversion until Monday.
2. A video of ex-Rep Foley walking to a car somewhere.
3. A disembodied voice saying "look out your window if you want the latest".
reensure, Oct 02 2006

       Every article about nutrition would be deleted.
phundug, Oct 02 2006

       How about just finding / starting a news service that does not feel a requirement to generate filler news. One that gets paid by subscription the same amount if they report or do not report. Then they make more money if they condense, and only force themselves to action when absolutly necessary. I'd love to see how they would report world news:   

       "WTC twin towers destroyed by airliners hijacked by Saudi Arabians. Just under 3,000 dead. Osama bin Ladin credited." Period. End of report.   

       What more do you need? Maybe the flight numbers, names of the dead and injured? Video loop of the planes hitting and the towers falling?   

       Pretty much does it, I think. Most days, they would just have "Nothing to report" on their page.
James Newton, Oct 02 2006

       C'mon World, that's the wrong measurement.   

       Here are some examples that would pass your filter as "facts":   

       "There's no doubt that Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction" (Dick Cheney)   

       "Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11".   

       "2 plus 2 really equals 5"   

       You're not proposing to check assertions, but are simply going to give free passes to whoever shows confidence in their assertion? Sounds like a good way to get to a black/white (no gray) simplistic world view, which has nothing to do with reality.
sophocles, Oct 02 2006

       This may be an urban myth, but I seem to remember being told that, many decades ago, when nothing important and verifiable had happened, BBC radio would simply report 'There are no news today', and play some music.   

       I really hope that's true and, if not, that someone will make it true.
pertinax, Oct 03 2006

       //Most days, they would just have "Nothing to report" on their page.//   

       I would love this. Gone would be those silly filler reports on radio and TV news, and in newspapers. A simple "todays news: there is no news" would do me, then I can get on with something more important rather than reading/listening/watching only to find out that the only thing that has happended is a cat got stuck up a tree for four hours in Derby.
webfishrune, Oct 03 2006

       Not "Nothing to report" just have to report on science, the arts, current events and considered opinions. You know, the stuff that USED to be called news.
Galbinus_Caeli, Oct 03 2006

       //How about just finding / starting a news service that does not feel a requirement to generate filler news.// Have you tried Reuters?
zen_tom, Oct 03 2006

       [soph] I do not pretend that my simple filter can determine whether a news story is filled with fact or bad assertions. That will still be up to me, the reader. But it will save me the effort of reading through all of the empty news stories that don't even pretend to report anything.   

       [bigsleep] I can point to a hundred stories released this, or any, week with verifiable facts.   

       [jurist] (way up near the top) I value opinion and speculation pieces. But only from journalists whose opinion I value. The opinion of some random journalist from some random news source that Google News semi-randomly spits out is more or less useless to me.
Worldgineer, Oct 03 2006

       I once went up north for 2 months years ago and had zero exposure to news. When I came back I was surprised to find that there was essentially zero change in the news. The Americans had bombed a different country (Libya this time), the Arabs and Isrealis were terrorizing each other, the economy was in trouble, gasoline prices were up. Some 20 years later the news is still the same except it Iraq
sam123, Oct 03 2006

       Sorry I got cut off. ... Except it is Iraq this time (again).   

       Your news filter may want to have a temporal filtering capability as well.
sam123, Oct 03 2006

       When reading some newspapers, I find that the 'facts' boil down to the statements given by those interviewed or publicly declared. A quick scan to find the quote marks does the trick...
Jinbish, Oct 03 2006

       True enough, but waiting up until the time where a duly appointed, uniformed and possibly armed representative of the government arrives in person at your house to tell you what is going on, might be seen as leaving things a little too late, should one wish to take any action about whatever it is they've come to inform you about.
zen_tom, Oct 05 2006

       What do you *mean* that my farm is being possessed by the government!?
Jinbish, Oct 05 2006

       People tell me stuff all the time. That doesn't make it any more true or important than the crap on the news.
Texticle, Oct 05 2006

       Slightly off-topic, but a former colleague of mine once told me that the reason why he no longer read newspapers was this: in general, newspapers are less concerned with telling you what happened than with telling you how to feel about what happened.   

       Presumably, the reason for this is that most consumers of news are more interested in consuming
a starter of prurient horror followed by
a serving of self-righteous anger with
a side of smug

       ...than they are in picking up checkable facts and acting on them.   

       I was going to suggest that this might be one of the causes of the problem which this idea seeks to solve.   

       However, I think it might be more on-topic to consider the pattern of incentives for journalists. They remind me a bit of brokers and fund managers during a market bubble, who can get fired for doing nothing even when nothing is the sensible thing to do. The question is then, where do we find, or how do we create, the Warren Buffet of news values?
pertinax, Oct 06 2006

       Metadata in online news stories highlighting the actual facts, along with cited references?   

       In a small town along the coast of Florida, <fact source="http: //somenewssite.com/ references/ reference45676.html">Senator Smith ran over a small cat</fact>.
Worldgineer, Oct 06 2006

       It could be interesting to flag news and news sources based on their speculative nature, and rate them over time for correctness
theircompetitor, Oct 06 2006

       Again, some news firms have policies that equate to this - a Reuters feed should give you a balanced, low-celebrity, low-speculation, fact-based range of 'news'.   

       The BBC might have been good for that too (despite the British bias) but since the whole David Kelly affair and subsequent Hutton enquiry, you have to wonder - I suppose it is reasonable, they are a broadcaster first, and a jounalism provider second.   

       And as for Google, should you choose, you can have your Google homepage draw information from any number of chosen RSS providers (of which one is Reuters)
zen_tom, Oct 06 2006

       BBC is still strong at home. And to criticise it for a bias is hardly significant compared to the likes of Fox. BBC NEWS 24 is not the BBC. For the BBC check out John Humphrey's Today show on BBC Radio 4 or Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight or Panorama, most of these are available on the net. They are predominantely british but they do handle issues with some refreshing depth and impartiality. Just today they discussed that the BBC journalists should always present without revealing their personal opinion.
PainOCommonSense, Oct 06 2006

       sam said //Your news filter may want to have a temporal filtering capability as well.// and I totally agree: A news service should admit when it is a repeat of some former day in history. Or parts of different days mixed together.   

       "The USA repeated the Gulf War, but this time added a Viet Nam flavor by occupying rather than just driving them back to the boarder."   

       "Congresspervert Folley today pulled a Clinton, but with a 16 year old boy on-line in place of the 20 year old girl on-knees."
James Newton, Oct 06 2006

       Could they just get the basic facts straight. Today I heard a newscaster say that one kiloton is equal to 1000 lbs of explosives. I just turned the TV off at that point.
augusta, Oct 09 2006


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