What will go on my Open and Disclose public profile?

There are two different types of profiles on Open and Disclose: individual profiles and organizational profiles. The individual profile is meant for journalists to showcase recent or important work that they have completed or that they want to highlight. They also have the option to include their basic contact information, social media handles, employment history and, if they wish, any awards and achievements from their careers. All profiles are not the same, because it is up to each journalist to decide how much he or she wants to share. Since the purpose of Open and Disclose is to establish media credibility through transparency, journalists are also encouraged to disclose any membership they might have in activist organizations or political parties in order to be open about any possible biases. This could be especially important if journalists have been paid by these organizations in the past.

The organization profile looks at organizational structure i.e. who the parent company is and what the organization is known for. On their profiles, organizations have the chance to showcase work that they’ve done, such as major stories that they broke, or awards that they have won. Organizations are also given the option to include any political affiliations and outside financial gains in their profiles. Once again, it is up to the organization to decide how much information they wish to disclose.

How can news readers use Open and Disclose to check credibility?

As a news consumer, you want to know that the media and journalists that you’re reading are credible and real. A major issue that we are facing in the digital age is the sheer number of stories that are published every day that don’t have a listed or credible author. This is where Open and Disclose comes in. News readers can use this website to check that the content they consume regularly is from a real and credible journalist.

Open and Disclose uses a weighted rating system in which the greater the amount of information shared on a profile, the higher one’s rating. If a journalist or organization has a profile, the consumer can have a higher level of trust, not only because they have access to the profile, but because Media Monitoring Africa personally verifies that these people and organizations exist and are legitimate and credible.

How does MMA choose which individuals and organizations to verify?

For a journalist to have a profile, he or she needs to be a practicing content producer in the field. Media Monitoring Africa checks each journalist’s work to ensure that he or she adheres to certain journalistic principles and ethics as well as writes for a credible organization. When organizations register, MMA checks them against credibility criteria, including contact details on the website, a secure URL, ownership structure, levels of original content, and memberships listed, among other things. If you would like more information on the criteria used, please contact us on info@mma.org.za.

What does the Disclosure Rating indicate?

The Disclosure Rating is a scale of one to five stars. When a journalist or organization creates a profile, they automatically receive one star. The rest is linked to how much information is disclosed in the profile – the more you populate the profile, the higher your rating will be. Choosing to put less information on the profile does not mean that the journalist or organization is not credible. It simply means that more information and transparency begets more credibility.

The Disclosure Rating also helps to eliminate bias towards lesser-known journalists and community media who don’t have public online profiles. MMA is working to shift the perception that just because a journalist works in mainstream media automatically means that they are credible and vice versa.

Why should I join Open and Disclose?

Open and Disclose addresses a countrywide issue of dodgy news and declining media credibility. We have not seen an improvement in trust, nor have we seen a decline in dodgy sites, in recent years. We’re not going to solve the problem with just one approach, but it is still very important that the media take responsibility to improve their own credibility with their audiences. Open and Disclose is one angle from which we are taking on the decline of media. By joining Open and Disclose, journalists and organizations also help raise awareness among their readers that there is a difference between credible and non-credible media. Joining Open and Disclose safeguards and promotes your brand as a trustworthy journalist or organization.

After registering a profile, journalists and organizations have the option to receive a code snippet that allows them to put the Open and Disclose logo on their page. This affirms your dedication to credibility and transparency, as well as promoting the platform to readers and other journalists. This way, readers don’t have to go through the Open and Disclose page to find out who is a member and who is not. The logo is clickable and will send the reader through to the journalist or organization’s profile on Open and Disclose. The code is dynamic, so it is easy to change the size and location of the logo on the page.

Remember, Open and Disclose is just one element of a broader strategy to try and combat the crises of credibility in the media. It is not an end in itself. For other ways of detecting the credibility of a story you are reading, look at https://www.newstools.co.za for more.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on info@mma.org.za.