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February 15, 2005
Citizen Journalists: Could Wikinews Become The Next Associated Press?
Since late last year, WikiMedia.org, the site hosting the Wikipedia online encyclopedia created by collaborative efforts of millions of Web users, has been working on something that's making many journalists a bit nervous. It's called Wikinews. The idea is to invite online users worldwide to collaboratively write news articles, edit them and fact check them -- basically, to create a cost-free Associated Press or Reuters.
The project is still in its infancy. Though users from as far as Russia and Israel have already opened newsrooms in their native languages, there aren't that many stories written by them -- yet. These volunteer reporters are still working out the how-tos of reporting news accurately, avoiding being sued, etc. Still, this network of self-professed citizen journalists could, potentially, change the news business as we know it.
Consider: Bloggers have already broken many stories, including the recent resignation of CNN's Eason Jordan. As Dan Gillmor recently wrote in his blog, some of these citizen journalists are pretty good: "Bloggers and other citizen journalists are doing increasingly valuable work," he writes. And as blogs become more respected and more mainstream, many more people will go to them for news.
The idea of, say, a blog to which thousands of people contribute news items isn't really that outrageous. Such a site could become quite popular. And perhaps anticipating such a flood of traffic, search engine Google recently offered the Wiki guys to host their Wikipedia site for free (check out an article on that here).
The Wiki people are talking about how, if the project is successful, the organization could, perhaps, hire its own research staff and its own, paid editors. Perhaps from the Associated Press?
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WikiNews is a very serious and dangerous trend in journalism, and should not be called citizen journalism. While a collaborative work, it employs self-styled but untrained volunteers to edit and censor stories. This trend toward the new world of journalism gives voice to anonymity under the guise of impartiality, but is lacking in credibility that professional journalists must adhere to.
WikiNews should be seen as nothing more than a cacophony of voices in the wilderness of irresponsible journalism. I'll take my editor's years of instinct and experience over a template and untrained online editor anyday.
Let's get back to the basics of solid reporting and ignore this internet babble. It's no more credible than a teenager chat room. Are we so desperate to fill pages and airtime that we have to turn to the wiki, waki world of crap.
If we want to see a federal shield law, let's not grant journalistic credibility to poorly disguised citizen journalism.
Posted by: Paul J. Elliott at January 21, 2006 10:00 PM
I would say it is better than blogging, in that there is need for objectivism, but not much better.
Political blogging is collapsing in New Zealand as it gets nastier and nastier. The same can be seen in parts of Wikipedia, and will no doubt spread to WikiNews.
Posted by: MidnightTonight at March 21, 2006 09:14 PM
I must say I'm puzzled at Paul J. Elliott's comments, I can't tell whether is is because citizen journalism is a threat to him, or whether he is completely uninformed on the process.
Wikinews has adopted the Wikimedia foundation's Neutral Point of View policy, in fact that's written into the project guidelines. A core community of users defend this principle, in much the same way the BBC defends their impartiality. I'd like to think that if you read a sampling of our stories you will discover the end result is usually the same sort of accurate reporting.
Wikinews is not, has never been, and will not become, a blog. We don't allow op-ed pieces. There is no regular editorial, just news, complying with the above-mentioned policy.
As a regular contributor to wikinews, I'd point people to coverage of the Indian Ocean Tsunami or the UK oil storage depot file as where wikinews might end up one day. At the moment, we're just a poor mans AP.
Posted by: Brian McNeil at March 28, 2006 11:00 AM
The AP is a filtered, conservative news organization. It tends to under-report (or fail to report) anything negative re Iraq war or Current White House. So I seriously doubt Wiki will become the next AP.
Posted by: bc at April 11, 2006 05:25 PM