Digging for Eco News

New technologies like blogs, BlackBerrys, and cell-phone cameras have given ordinary people a power once reserved for journalists and others in the media. That power is the ability to spread information far and wide. Citizen journalism, the practice of amateur reporters contributing news, photos, and opinions to help shape coverage of a story, has become the buzzword du jour in journalism schools’ hallways and network news shows’ cafeterias. While the concept is still relatively new and there isn't much agreement on the best way to use the newfound practice, it's safe to say that in terms of popularity, is one of the early success stories.

Digg works by harnessing the collective judgment of its readers to identify and sort news stories they deem interesting, newsworthy, or just plain cool. Digg's users don't usually do reporting; it's more a tool for aggregating and sifting through the vast amount of information already out there. Eager bloggers and J-school students have been quick to hail Digg as a model of newsgathering and reader participation, and it's certainly succeeded in attracting a large, loyal following. But I wanted to test Digg and see what sorts of environmental news stories it deemed particularly worthwhile. What kind of green journalism do Diggers dig?

The kind with kewl pix, apparently. The current top three stories of the week in Digg's environmental section are:


  • A National Geographic story featuring photos of a captured colossal squid. You thought the giant squid was big? Check out this monster, which can grow to be longer than a school bus.
  • A picture—no actual story here—of a dolphin lying on the head of a humpback whale.
  • And a shot of a tornado that looks like it's doing the same thing to a rainbow.

Even the more serious stories tend to be photo-heavy, like this article from the Daily Mail on the effects of global climate change.

Granted, Diggers did pick some stories for their words rather than their images. There was the Reuters report that 2007 is on track to be the second-hottest year since record keeping began. And the review of a Facebook application that helps students reduce their carbon emissions by coordinating carpools provided information on a topic that you probably wouldn’t see in mainstream newspapers. But overall, Digg's collective judgment heavily favors the spectacular and the superficial. For now, go to Digg to find an oddball story or new wallpaper for your desktop, but look to professional journalists for news on the environment.