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Making Sense of New News Startups


Statistician Nate Silver made quite the splash with his "FiveThirtyEight" blog on the New York Times website.

Why? Well, he very accurately predicted the outcome of the 2012 Presidential Election, for one thing.

So, now Silver -- with backing from ESPN -- has launched his own FiveThirtyEight website.

Silver's quest to cover the world through statistical analysis is just one of many internet news startups that are trying to come up with new and better ways to cover the news.

Vox.com -- a website launched by former Washington Post bloggerEzra Klein -- has as its slogan: "The Smartest Thinkers, The Toughest Questions."

There's alsoFirst Look and re/Code among the new news startups.

Are these news startups the future of news coverage?

"Each of these websites is trying to solve a very specific problem that journalism faces," Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making Project"explained. "Nate Silver is focused on stats and data. He thinks that journalism is too heavily dependent on opinion and he wants to fix that problem. Vox.com, Ezra Klein's site, he believes in stats and data but he also thinks that journalism focuses on the minutiae  too much and they can't cut to the chase quickly enough.

"Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg used to be with the Wall Street Journal and they ran the All Things D site. They felt like the Wall Street Journal just couldn't cover technology and they couldn't get the business model right so they created re/code. Pierre Omidyar, one of the founders of eBay, he felt like the journalism world just wasn't giving consumers the right information at the right time so he created First Look. His very first hire was Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian. And Glenn is the one who brought us all the NSA/Edward Snowden stories so that's obviously going to have a national security focus."

Of all of these new sites addressing particular problems in mainstream journalism and reporting, McBride is most excited about vox.com.

"Ezra has done this thing where he creates these topics pages and they look like research note cards," McBride said.

"You can go through one on Obamacare. You can go through one on student loan debt. And he's got about twelve of them right now and they really do fix a problem in journalism which is the problem of the big picture. When you search Google right now you can really find the most recent stories but you can't find the best stories... so it's really hard to answer the question, so what's that Bengazi story all about? And I think Ezra has figured out a solution to that."

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