Sep 18, 2007 11:44am

What if the news of the day came directly to you, without any editors filtering it?  What if you could go online and get websites, or RSS feeds, or whatever, that just gave you the stories most likely to interest you?  What if– Well, what if I stopped talking about this as a what-if notion?  It already exists, of course, in myriad places.  Think of Digg, or Reddit, or the automated headline-gathering done by Google News.  They don’t have editors actively organizing stories in an order that they think will be most important or interesting to you.  Their content is chosen or prioritized in some way by you, the user. The phenomenon is growing–The New York Times has just announced a self-selecting service, though one of the options on "My Times" is "Journalists’ Picks."  The AP has a piece about the use of such so-called "widgets" by newspaper websites; you can read it HERE. But back to the original question: what happens when online readers pick the stories?  The Project for Excellence in Journalism, founded by former Washington Post reporter Tom Rosenstiel, spent a week over the summer (June 24-29) surfing the major user-news sites, and REPORTS that the diet of stories was was very different from what one would find, say, on our site.  Whereas the mainstream media did a lot that week on Iraq and immigration, the PEJ report says, users of and Digg picked a lot of technology and science items–the introduction of the iPhone, for instance–as well as news-you-can-use stories, such as how to avoid blood clots on long plane flights. "If a new crop of user-news sites–and measures of user activity on mainstream news sites–are any indication, the news agenda will be more diverse, more transitory, and often draw on a very different and perhaps controversial list of sources," says the PEJ report. The PEJ found people going to blogs, YouTube, WebMd and other sites that may not describe themselves as news sites.  They chose less overseas news than news editors generally do, and they changed topics more often. Witness Monday night.  While "World News" here at ABC led with health care,’s top item over the previous 24 hours  was "How tourists, hikers and fisherman can avoid conflicts with Grizzly Bears."  (Take a look–there’s a punchline.) What do you think?  I promise not to tell our editors.

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