This study explores the potential of an online platform that encourages journalists to post the documents behind their news stories to help restore the deteriorating public trust in news media. Based on content analysis of 200 news items and 315 accompanying documents posted on DocumentCloud, findings indicate that contrary to journalists’ traditional reluctance to rely on documents, the platform succeeds in boosting massive use of documents, both by mainstream and alternative journalists. Findings show that documents serve mainly to support factual claims (in 96 percent of items) and enhance the transparency of news processes, allowing audiences’ unmediated access to raw materials, and greater capacity to evaluate information independently. However, there are no apparent signs that journalists verified the content of the document. The article suggests that DocumentCloud is a unique example of a technology that may succeed where the former technology that promised to serve as a journalistic reference system, hyperlinks, had failed. If the DocumentCloud experiment is implemented on a wider scale, it might have serious theoretical and practical implications, which are discussed here.
- newsroom culture