Fwd: Wikinews e-mail: Participatory Journalism document
bawolff <bawolff+wn <at> gmail.com>
2007-05-08 23:21:28 GMT
Might as well forward to the rest of the mailing list. Thank you for
emailing it to me
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Stevenfruitsmaak <steven_fruitsmaak <at> hotmail.com>
Date: May 7, 2007 10:47 AM
Subject: Wikinews e-mail: Participatory Journalism document
To: Bawolff <bawolff+wn <at> gmail.com>
I thought you might be interested...
kind regards, Steven Fruitsmaak
WikiNews: Participatory Journalism in a Wiki
The term 'wiki' is a term which means 'a collaborative website
which allows visitors to remove, edit, add, and change its content',
and is proving to be invaluable to the idea of participatory
journalism online. Participants in a wiki can add their own insights
to the content already present on the website, or can add content of
their own, to get feedback from the rest of the community. It is a
highly beneficial ground for exchanging ideas, and when used
correctly, can be a breeding ground for information, journalism, and
For example, the LA Times decided to try out a wiki by using
it on their website, in conjunction with an editorial entitled "War
and Consequences," a temporary venture in the world of contributory
works which showed that readers can add lively contributions to such
an article.(Dorroh, 50)
A more permanent venture into the world of journalistic wikis
is the website WikiNews.Org. Wikinews is a site where citizens of all
ages and backgrounds can contribute to or write their own journalistic
content, in an environment where neutrality is encouraged, and bias is
weeded out in an attempt to get the straight facts about a story to
the masses. Volunteers who wish to provide "reliable, unbiased, and
entertaining news" strive to either write original, neutral articles,
or take the biased articles of other news media and weed out the
partiality present in those stories to get to the heart of the news.
But who are the people behind this groundbreaking venture into
participatory community journalism?
Wikinews is run by the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit
organization which keeps Wikinews and associated sites like Wikipedia
and Wikimedia running through donations. All the sites run by the
Wikimedia Foundation function under a Free License agreement which
allows the website to link and post sources from various other media
sources, including other journalistic endeavors like online articles
from established news organizations and media on TV. According to
Steven Fruitsmaak, an administrator of the site, Wikinews is "free of
advertising, and not influenced by our sponsors."
Amy Gahrain, a freelance writer and blogger, made the
statement that "News organizations could offer wiki-based
backgrounders and tutorials on important public topics—with a focus on
the news value and public-interest aspects," in reference to how
regular news media could use the technology of Wikinews and similar
Fruitsmaak also comments that most of the users of Wikinews
are citizens with an interest in the news, with maybe 2% of the
Wikinews population having a job in the field. Those who use the site
are focused on reporting the news, and opinion writing like the LA
Times experiment are discouraged, and opinions "should be blogged"
instead of offered as fact in an article.
But how do we ensure that the articles presented on Wikimedia
aren't just the blogged opinions mentioned earlier? In the website's
Frequently Asked Questions section, the website administration answers
the question, by stating that "Our goal is that you can trust us more
than you can trust other media, because we tell you exactly what we
know and with what level of certainty we know it." (FAQ, #3)
According to the answered question, the citizen journalists on
the site must quote where their information is from, even if it is
from an anonymous source who had contacted the Wikinews reporter. In
that respect, those who use the site to get their news know with more
certainty just how much of the article they can believe
wholeheartedly, and which parts should be looked into on the reader's
own time, and "blogged opinions" are removed if found.
There is also the question of whether or not the articles on
Wikinews are considered to be pure journalism by other news media.
According to Jennifer Dorroh, who wrote the article "Wiki: Don't Lose
That Number," most traditional news media are at a complete loss when
it comes to the technology of the wiki. While it is a very good tool
for allowing citizens to do things such as aid the newspaper in its
core mission of investigation, traditional media is struggling with a
"loss of control" because of the input aspect of wiki technology. In
the article Nora Paul of the University of Minnesota states that "The
medium has always been, 'You'll take what we give you and you'll like
it or you won't but here it is.' Nor the audience wants to have
individual control over the news it gets through news alerts, filters
and the ability to contribute and talk back." (Dorroh, 51)
Wikinews administrators and collaborators, however, consider
their venture to be 100% journalism, according to Fruitsmaak. "As I
see it, we are doing a great job with less money and despite our lack
of training in and experience with journalism (compared to normal
journalists)," says Fruitsmaak. Wikinews not only encourages original
news reporting, but the quality of "synthesis" articles is "sometimes
equal, but always free and more neutral" when compared to the
offerings of normal journalism media.
The main question to consider, though, is how well do wikis
work in general, as both a source of journalism and as information
sharing projects? As with all undertakings involving an environment
where everyone is free to contribute, there are occasionally those who
abuse the privilege, and problems crop up that are special to this
venue of information and idea sharing.
Barb Palser, in an article entitled "Coping with Jerk Swarms,"
talks about the fate of the LA Times experiment mentioned earlier.
The project was shut down because of contributors, in the spirit of
vandalism, flooded the editorial with foul language and pornographic
photographs. The project was subsequently shut down with an apologetic
note from the editors.
Palser mentions that this is a growing problem in attempts
made by traditional media competitors to embrace the wiki's "spirit of
open dialogue". She states that "the problem of the jerk who wrecks it
for everybody is a growing headache. Not only are news sites
ill-equipped to deal with a flash flood of violent language and dirty
pictures, but their stature and visibility practically guarantee it
will happen." The task of 'policing' something as vast as a wiki
seems almost impossible to normal, traditional media, who are new to
this kind of technology.
The promoters of Wikinews, however, rely on those who
contribute to the project to fix such abuse on the website. Because
of the site's instant archival of changes in the content, someone who
finds vandalism on the site can "revert" the page to an earlier
version, and the action is subsequently recorded with an explanation
as to the revert. Those who participate on the site in the "spirit of
open dialogue" and a desire to accurately report news are given the
ability to police the vandals and even report the article on which the
abuse has occurred.
There are other ways that the administration of Wikinews can
both police and prevent vandalism activities on their sites, besides
relying on the efforts of those contributing to the site in a proper
manner. The site's ability to log the IP address of everyone, even
those who edit articles anonymously, gives the administrators of the
website the ability to block the addresses from the site, thus
preventing future vandal attacks.
Does the general idea of Wikinews and the site itself actually
work in reference to a better public debate and reporting of current
events, though? In the opinion of Steven Fruitsmaak, Wikinews is a
website which encourages the everyday citizen to question and
criticize the biases of the large media corporations by going over
their articles and finding the actual facts, bringing back the
watchdog aspect to regular journalism. The opinions of normal
citizens may once again affect how large media businesses do their own
My opinion on the usefulness of Wikinews is that it is indeed
a viable and useful way for citizens who desire to make the art of
reporting better for everyone. Wikinews offers a community where free
and neutral reportage is encouraged, where opinions and "spin" in
articles are discouraged so that people may see the facts of an event
and draw their own conclusions, instead of accepting the biases of the
medium and investors reporting the news. There are no
"editors-in-chief" who decide to run or not run stories based on their
popularity; the newsworthiness of an article is decided by the
response it generates in the talk functions and by how much it is
added to in the actual text of the article. The site makes those who
contribute to it more aware of their surroundings in a journalistic
sense, and the world receives more eyes through which to see the
happenings of day-to-day life, and the newsworthy stories which occur
Palser, Barb. "Coping with Jerk Swarms." American Journalism Review.
Apr/May 28.2 (2006): 70-71.
Dorroh, Jennifer. "Wiki: Don't Lose That Number." American Journalism
Review. Aug/Sept 27.4 (2005): 50-51.
Fruitsmaak, Steven. "Participatory Journalism Questions." Online
posting. 29 Apr. 2007. Wikinews Water Cooler. 30 Apr. 2007
Wikimedia Foundation. Wikinews. 2007 30 Apr. 2007 <http://www.wikinews.org>