Sites where readers vote on what's news are a challenge that traditional news organizations ignore at their peril.
If you could create a newspaper based on what you and your friends like to read, would it look different from the front page of The Christian Science Monitor? Or The New York Times? Or even your local paper? Now, thanks to the Internet, you can. Social network news websites make it possible by allowing users essentially to vote on what they consider news.
The Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) decided to explore the differences between what the editors of The New York Times considered a top story as opposed to the readers of three user-driven sites: Del.icio.us, Digg, and Reddit. The PEJ people also included Yahoo News's Most Recommended, Most Viewed, and Most E-mailed in their study. What they found was interesting, but not unexpected for anyone who frequently reads both sources of content.
The PEJ report, "The Latest Headline, Your Vote Counts" (available at www.journalism.org/node/7493) mentions that: "In a week when the mainstream press was focused on Iraq and the debate over immigration, the three leading user-news sites – Reddit, Digg, and Del.icio.us – were more focused on stories like the release of Apple's new iPhone and that Nintendo had surpassed Sony in net worth."
As someone who has worked in online media for a long time, I have experienced the way people in traditional media react when they see something like this – it's generally seen as more proof that the Internet is corrupting the news and that people aren't paying attention to the stories that really count. There is a certain amount of fear in such reactions, because while traditional journalists are aware that there is a sea change in news, they aren't completely sure what that will mean for their future.