Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Viability of Wikinews

In Paul Bradshaw's article entitled Wiki Journalism, Bradshaw refers to the Wikimedia Foundation's user-generated news site Wikinews. As the article states, Wikinews is intended to be a user-generated news site, featuring journalistic content cross-checked by users and freely open, in some ways, to editing by the public.

Wikinews Logo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

According to the site, the English-language version of Wikinews has over 18,600 articles. Unlike Wikipedia, however, the English-language version of Wikinews does not take the lead in article counts. In fact, the Russian-language version of the site has over 68,000 articles, a substantially larger number than the English version. This perhaps gives a general idea of the site's popularity, or lack thereof, among English-speaking users.

In order to demonstrate the difference in styles between Wikipedia and Wikinews, one can do a quick comparison of two articles featuring similar content. To start, we can look at Wikipedia's article on the 2011 Norway attacks. This article follows a general encyclopedia format, starting with a summary of events, and diving into further details with multiple sections spanning the entirety of the subject at hand. Though many events are linked to a particular date and time, the writing itself comes across as more of a secondary history of the subject matter, rather than direct reporting of events as a primary source.

This is countered with one of many seemingly in-the-moment style articles on the Wikinews site that were published as the attacks occurred, and in subsequent days as events progressed. In this example of an article written as events were unfolding, one immediately notices that it is dated upfront as being published on July 23, 2011, essentially establishing this content as locked in time. This is contrasted, however, to the main Wikipedia article on the attacks, which reflects a continuous effort to update the content rather than locking it into a particular notion of time and date.

Furthermore, one might take a look at a pending article to gain insight into the publication process. In this article on the "Norwegian mass murderer trial," one can find a list of edits to the article, which demonstrates the collaborative process that goes into writing such a piece. However, at the time of this writing, the article itself is still undergoing a "pre-publication review" process, in which qualified reviewers act almost as editors in the publication process.

Regardless of its ability to act as a legitimate and thorough news source, sites like Wikinews are still inherently dependent on the users in order to properly function. If users are not interested in the process of writing journalistic articles, then the site will continue to exist outside of the knowledge of the general public.

1 comment:

  1. I think you do a very nice job with this story about Wikinews, which you tie to a timely example, given the fact that the assailant is now on trial, the 2011 Norway mass killings. I think your idea about contrasting the Wikinews entry with the Wikipedia entry also offers a great opportunity for analysis. The issue of "prepublication" vs. "postpublication" review is an important one not only for the authority of writing in journalism but also for scholarly publication, which is starting to experiment with new digital models that incorporate feedback from public audiences.