Online news site uses humans to find the good local stories

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topix.gifPeople reading news online may have a greater attention span, but that’s not helped if the site’s they’re using are plagued with spam and junk stories.

One online news aggregator, Topix, already has special software to help filter out spam and junk from its online forums, but that still doesn’t guarantee that the best stories get the visibility they deserve.

They’re now using human volunteers to act as editors on each of their 32,500 US localities. Editors will mark the best messages and news items, as well as writing their own stories about their community.

Citizen journalism isn’t a particularly new concept now – every serious blogger probably thinks they’re a journo already – and all sites that encourage participation by their users are faced with the same issues.

Rich Skrenta, co-founder and CEO of Topix, said that they get around 35,000 posts a day. Software will still be used in areas without a human editor to try to find the best stories.

He added that larger social voting systems like Digg wouldn’t work on local sites because there weren’t enough readers in most communities. They’re also open to cheating.

For the moment, at least, there’s no substitute for a decent pair of human eyes to promote the articles that are really newsworthy.

Andy Merrett