Newsana bills itself as a way of elevating the public's conversation around news, whether it is politics, sports, entertainment, technology or whatever interests people. Ben Peterson, CEO of Newsana and Will Koblensky, a Newsana community intern, provide an inside view of what this unique project is about and how this Toronto-based project fits into the myriad of community-driven news sites.

By Ben Peterson with Will Koblensky

Some journalism is brilliant, but the majority of it is crap. Yep, I just publicly wrote what most journalists have been saying privately for years. Royal weddings, celebrity trials, gossip, conjecture, puff. Most journos hate covering it, and I don’t think the public enjoys it all that much either.

Add into this mix the random shotgun blast of information you get from your social media channels. Then, throw in the pointless fluff conjured up by the new breed of data-driven pageview-hoarding content machines like Business Insider and BuzzFeed — and what do you get? An ugly, confusing and headache-inducing jumble of content that is endlessly spit up on your screen of choice. Unsurprisingly, 70% of online news consumers feel overwhelmed with the amount of content to choose from.

With so much access to too much content, over saturation seems inescapable. You’re lucky to find more than a few great journalistic pieces per day from a single news site or blog.


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Is this the idyllic future promised to us by the Internet gods? Do we really want to wade through heaps of useless information, hoping to find one decent story?

I sure hope not.

The key to rescuing us from drowning in the sea of superfluous news is to figure out how to dig out the hidden gems, wash them off, shine them up, and showcase them for the world to admire.

I’m certainly not the first to point out this problem or try to solve it. Walter Shapiro, Arianna Huffington, Dan Gilmore and Jeffrey Dvorkin are among those that have written in support of a vaguely defined ‘slow news movement’.  Riffing off the ‘slow food movement’ they propose a world where breaking news matters less, and substantive news matters more.

But any movement needs supporters and organizers; the ‘slow news movement’ hasn’t picked up much steam. In part, I suspect it’s because the entire notion of ‘slow news’ comes off as vaguely boring and regressive. It’s simply not possible — or in anyway vaguely positive — to slow down the news cycle or try to put speed-bumps on the information highway. While some might yearn for the days when there was one newspaper and one TV newscast, I’m not one of them.

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Social media might be part of the problem here, but its potential is undeniable.  It’s empowering. It’s democratic. It gives voice to the voiceless and lets us vent while causing minimal harm. It’s a godsend in countries where the traditional media is tightly controlled.

The question is how to turn the power of the social media towards solving the very problem it helped create — to focus on the best-of-the-best, not just the lowest common denominator.

I recently left my job running Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), a cause I remain passionate about, to put my mind to this problem.

The result of much planning and soul searching, www.newsana.com, harnesses the power of our social network to filter out all the junk, featuring only the most meaningful stories of the day.

Our invite-only community — made up of subject-area experts across a variety of fields — pitches stories to the site, discusses them, and then votes on the most impactful, surfacing the most essential content.

Newsana doesn’t employ a single editor. Our community members are 100% in control of the site’s content, working together to crowdsource the top 5 stories on any given subject, from human rights to health.

In a very real way, Newsana is more of a social movement than it is a news site. It’s a place where smart people, fed up with crappy content and want to take a bit of time to do something about it, can come and take action. It’s about being contemplative, really thinking out what a story means.

No, Newsana isn’t for breaking new junkies or celebrity gossip mongers. It’s not for people that read more headlines than stories.  

Newsana is for people who want to elevate the conversation, who want to take a bit of extra time to find the most important stories and ideas. It’s for people that care what other people are reading and want to influence it for the better.

Despite all the worrying and journalism-hate out there right now, we are collectively producing more top-shelf content than ever before. But we need to find it, like an oasis in a desert, and then package it up and celebrate it. It’s what I believe the golden age of journalism will look like in part and it’s what Newsana is trying to deliver.