Sunday 19th February 2012by Dale
When WHYY launched NewsWorks a year and some months ago, I was a skeptic. While they were using the right tools, their terms of service agreement looked like it was designed to stifle any real community engagement. The ToS still reads like it was crafted by an RIAA lawyer who’d sooner hug a panhandler than give $40 to public broadcasting. But I was dead wrong about NewsWorks’ ability to engage its community.
In the year or so since they launched, the folks at WHYY have attracted and engaged people in civil and informative conversations. If that sounds easy to you, head on over to Philly.com and troll their comment sections for a minute. I don’t know the ins-and-outs of NewsWorks’ moderation process. I do know that good moderation requires more people, time and thought than most organizations are willing to budget for. Doing it well on a public broadcasting budget — that’s commendable.
As they continue to build, I’d urge the community editors at WHYY to sit down with the people who authored and approved the ToS for NewsWorks and find a way to make it easier for people to engage with the content itself. (I can download exactly one copy — no more — and print it out? Gee whiz!) WHYY wants the community to speak with its own voice; carving out a piece of the license to allow “share and share alike” would make that a lot easier.
As it stands now, community members are essentially barred from collaborating through the site to create new content. I’m sure that’s not the intent, but that’s the language of the ToS. I’d like to think it’s as simple as saying that all user materials are available under Creative Commons, but I’m no lawyer. Public broadcasters are long-time defenders of fair use for educators and if it wasn’t for Mister Rogers we might never have had VCR’s. I would very much like to see this capable crew experiment with those guidelines in Philadelphia.