VettNews, a digital startup headed by several faculty, staff, and alumni of The King’s College, was selected to participate in this spring’s NYC Media Lab Combine. The Combine is an accelerator program that offers coaching and development, as well as a $10,000 grant, to early-stage technology ventures.
The VettNews team includes Paul Glader, associate professor of journalism; Clemente Lisi, affiliate assistant professor of journalism; Peter Freeby (MCA ’15), McCandlish Phillips program associate; Brian Ourien, assistant director of admissions; and Princess Jones, a Trevecca graduate who is an alumna of The King’s College’s New York City Semester in Journalism program. Ryan Skinner (PPE ’16) is lead technologist.
The aim of VettNews is to provide everyday readers tools to evaluate the quality of the news they read online. Through their initial product, a browser extension, viewers are able to see if media outlets pass several standards. Does the news organization have a code of ethics and a corrections policy? Is there a clear distinction between reporting and opinion? Audits by VettNews analysts also indicate who owns a particular organization and what political bias the news organization possesses. The browser extension, currently available on the Chrome store, will give a Green, Yellow, or Red rating based on how closely the news outlet follows these standards of journalistic integrity.
Glader, who serves as the CEO of VettNews, says, “Citizens need – and indeed want – more help navigating the online news media ecosystem. We created this database and app because we believe news organizations need to be as transparent as possible with their audience in this new age where most readers view journalistic content via social media.”
Since the 2019 Combine program began on January 10, the VettNews team has been receiving weekly coaching at RLab at Brooklyn Navy Yard. The three-hour meetings each Friday primarily involve team members presenting aspects of their venture before a shark-tank style audience made up of mentors from across NYC Media Lab’s executive community and alumni. During the rest of the week, the team conducts interviews with prospective customers to “get a sense of what the customer wants and see if they would be willing to buy our product,” says Princess Jones. The program runs until April 5, and will culminate in a demo day and pitch session to investors and executives in New York City.
The news verification tools and ratings database VettNews is developing are intended to serve both the regular consumer of media, enterprise consumers of media and media-producing enterprises, says Peter Freeby. Through these coaching sessions, the team has developed additional applications for their product.
The King’s team earned one of eight spots in the Combine reserved for participants from New York City universities. “It’s exciting to develop a solution to a big problem in society,” says Brian Ourien, who worked as a journalist in Africa before joining King’s as an admissions counselor. “From staff and faculty to students and alumni, we care about entrepreneurship at King’s and developing ideas that can improve society.” Other teams include members from NYU, Columbia University, John Jay, and Carnegie Mellon.
The Combine is sponsored by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and from support by NYC Media Lab Member Companies.
NYC Media Lab
NYC Media Lab connects media and technology companies with New York City’s universities to drive innovation, entrepreneurship and talent development. A public-private partnership launched by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, NYC Media Lab funds prototyping projects that foster collaboration across a range of disciplines core to the future of media. The Combine, an early stage accelerator for emerging media and technology startups, is now in its fourth year. Learn more: nycmedialab.org
VettNews, is a part of Vett Inc., which aim to make citizens savvier about the news media organizations they read online. The creation of VettNews stems from a Forbes.com post authored by Paul Glader in February 2016 titled, “10 Journalism Brands Where You Find Real Facts Rather Than Alternative Facts.” The article gained more than 1.5 million readers, along with requests to expand the list and build a product to help citizens understand media outlets. For more information on VettNews, its mission and methodology, visit VettNews.com and follow us on Twitter @VettNews.