Wikinews:Alternative Review Process Proposal

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I would like to propose a different process for publishing and reviewing pages/articles on Wikinews.

Principles[edit]

A news organization such as Wikinews should follow a set of guiding principles in understanding the worth and validity of an article. I propose that the ranked set of principles for Wikinews be as follows:

  1. Timeliness
  2. Correctness
  3. Completeness
  4. Objectivity

These will be discussed in detail below. Each principle refers to Wikipedia for comparison. Each principle contains preemptive responses to potential criticisms that the current policy is good enough. Finally, each principle contains a section outlining what that principle means to Wikinews.

Principles, in detail[edit]

Timeliness[edit]

Principle of Timeliness[edit]

  • Any story must be publishable immediately
    • Wikipedia in theory allows anyone to modify some parts of the homepage
    • Wikipedia also allows stubs; some info is better than none
  • News breaks quickly; people want to know at least something about a news story as quickly as possible

Responses to "current policy is enough"[edit]

  • The current policy in effect makes reviewing a prerequisite to an article being "published", but given a plethora of writers and new articles (most of which will likely be local news, which the reviewers will not know much about) the policy cannot scale.
  • It is easier for the writer to determine that a story is important enough to publish.

What this means for Wikinews[edit]

  • Any article at any stage can appear on the homepage, even a one-sentence one (i.e. "Planes strike World Trade Center")
  • Removal of excess prominence is part of the review process; an article of "dog bites man" would be removed from Main Page if added there.

Correctness[edit]

Principle of Correctness[edit]

  • All articles must be verifiable. Any article without proper attribution to questionable information must be marked as such at all times.
    • Wikipedia allows incorrect or unverified information at least until someone questions it; Wikinews editorial policy should attempt to question all unverified information.
  • Correctness means verifiability — it does not mean objectivity.
    • If even one news source claims a fact it is correct for a Wikinews article
    • If something is unattributed, it should be questioned. Yet timeliness is more important than verification.

Responses to "current policy is enough"[edit]

  • Current policy talks about neutrality (but seems to get the concept wrong as by Neutrality it means correctness), and about accuracy (which it describes as correctness).

What this means for Wikinews[edit]

  • Reviewers should flag articles that do not have enough source attribution to judge correctness as CORRECTNESS: NOT VERIFIED
  • Reviewers should flag articles that do not agree with sources they reference (i.e. wrong quotes, disagreement with source they quote on factual information) as CORRECTNESS: DISPUTED
  • Articles that have been flagged for correctness and not changed to fix the problem within a certain amount of time should be listed for deletion.
  • Articles that have been flagged for correctness for more than a certain amount of time should not be published in frozen compilations (digests, news magazines etc)

Completeness[edit]

Principle of Completeness[edit]

  • Articles must provide complete coverage, meaning that they should not omit critical information and not be stubs.
    • Wikipedia allows stubs; Wikinews should as well, but any incomplete information should be marked as such.
    • News in progress is by definition incomplete; the notion of completeness should apply mainly to news events that have a known scope at the time of review.
  • Completeness means all aspects of the story are covered — it does not mean that all points of view are provided and does not mean objectivity.

Responses to "current policy is enough"[edit]

  • Current policy talks about comprehensiveness, but gives it less weight than any other review criteria. A story, however, may easily have a point of view to some (i.e. "terrorists blow up important city landmark" may be disputed for the use of "terrorists" or "important", but what's more important in a news story is that the facts about who/what/where/when be covered even if the names of the actors are not neutral).

What this means for Wikinews[edit]

  • Reviewers should flag articles that appear to be incomplete when more information is available. This applies even to breaking news — an incomplete article is still valid; but if more information is available than is mentioned, the article should be flagged as such.
  • Incomplete articles should be published in frozen compilations but should remain marked as incomplete.

Objectivity[edit]

Principle of Objectivity[edit]

  • Articles must strive to be objective and neutral — they should use contention-free language and attempt to present either a balanced point of view, or all points of view.
    • The Wikipedia NPOV policies should apply.
  • Objectivity means balance, however a POV article can still report undisputed facts.
    • "Hitler kills millions of Jews" can be timely, correct (verifiable) and complete, but could be disputed on POV grounds by Holocaust revisionists. This does not mean that the news article is invalid for appearance on Wikinews any less than NPOV disputes mean disappearance of articles on Wikipedia.

Responses to "current policy is enough"[edit]

  • Current policy gives NPOV disputes a lot of prominence, even if the news article is merely summarizing existing reports from mainstream media. When the bias was introduced by all the news sources available to a writer, however, it might be infeasible to balance the presentation without a great deal of original research. It is unfair to news stories being covered by a large number of news organizations to be absent from Wikinews on bias grounds: the correctness principle should override objectivity until the majority of newly created Wikinews are based on original research.

What this means for Wikinews[edit]

  • NPOV is enforced via flags on articles; reviews should flag articles that appear to be biased as OBJECTIVITY: DISPUTED (i.e. {{npov}})
  • Articles with NPOV disputes should retain this tag until the dispute is settled
  • Articles with such flags should be included in frozen compilations, but should remain marked as biased

The proposed Wikinews Review Policy[edit]

The set of principles outlines above can be applied to the Wikinews process by relying on article creators to do the right thing. This means that we should assume that articles are going to be timely, correct, complete and objective: the review policy should exist only for those articles that are not.

In this proposed policy, all article authors would simply place their articles in the appropriate place: be it section page, Main Page, or wherever they deem the article belongs. As there's an implicit hierarchy in news based on geographic locale, the articles' ability to rise through the hierarchy depends on the perceived importance of the news story. However it is a review decision to drop the article through the hierarchy.

An article is considered "published" as soon as the page is created and linked-to from somewhere. Any future edits can either alter the article copy, or add flags about a perceived violation of some principle. To place a flag is obviously subjective, and therein the normal wiki editorial policy of consensus-forming will apply.

The article can be edited at any point. Some news articles are for stories that have happened in the past and do not require additional explanation or elaboration in the future. Some news articles are on-going short-term events: Arafat's death is one such example, taking place over about a week. Some articles are about newsworthy events that take much, much longer: the conflict in Iraq is an example of a news topic that has daily developments over years; the African desert locust swarm is an example of a news topic that has roughly monthly developments. Some articles are newsworthy for short periods of time several times in the course of a story (a story about a robbery for example might have the robbery, the capture, and the conviction of the robbers as three separate events that need to be cross-referenced from previous stories).

It is in order to accommodate the variety of articles (pages) on Wikinews that this policy suggests that articles are never frozen. It can be frowned upon to revise articles written a long time ago, but it sometimes happens that errors (violations of the principles) can be detected a long time after a story is first published. It would be unfair to subject stories of local interest with little attention from Wikinewsians to the same criteria for freezing as stories of international, front-page interest.

However, this policy recognizes the need for controlling revisionism, and proposes that regular digests provide this function. By having these digests (news magazines, daily summaries, or whatnot) reference specific versions of pages it will always be possible to determine how the world looked at some point in time, while still allowing the reader to click through to the most recent version of the article.

Arguments[edit]

Arguments for this policy[edit]

  • It reflects an inclusionist spirit of Wikipedia.
  • It allows important stories to become official at the moment that they are written.
  • It creates a structure for review of articles that allows a user to identify the potential caveat of an article.
  • It scales: as story count rises, writers will outnumber reviewers and explicit approval of each article will be unfeasible.
  • It removes the burden to monitor nearly every story and allows the reviewers to edit stories in order of priority: hierarchy status or level of specific interest (i.e. some editors can watch the homepage, others can watch local or subject-specific stories).

Arguments against this policy[edit]

  • It allows POV stories to remain unflagged for some time.
  • It allows incomplete stories to be published at high levels of news hierarchy.
  • It puts a burden on editors to monitor highly visible areas of the news hierarchy for illegitimate stories.