Wikinews:Newsworthiness

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Each Wikinews article focuses on a news event. Our main criterion for whether an event is suitable for coverage is that it should be newsworthy.

Wikinews seeks to publish, broadly, what a (reputable) mainstream source would run as a news article; however, Wikinews is its own unique project with its own standards to follow. Wikinews is global in reach but potentially local in coverage; and we may cover events — either local or global — with little or no previous mainstream coverage; so we cannot approriately use inclusion criteria similar to Wikipedia's notability guidelines. Our notion of newsworthiness, though putting meaningful bounds on our coverage so we remain a news site, should welcome all these different kinds of material.

What, then, is "newsworthy"? Newsworthy items pass three tests: They are specific, relevant, and fresh.

Specificity[edit]

Each news article documents some specific event — the focus — which the headline and lede must identify. An ongoing process is unlikely to pass muster; look for some specific development in an ongoing process, to serve as the focus. An earthquake is specific, while continental drift is not. The publication of, say, the results of a study about continental drift is, however, again a specific event.

An article can cover a larger picture than just its specific focus, provided the material is built around the focus. The body of the article spirals outward from the focus, giving details and background about the focus. It is still oriented around the focus — don't write an article that mentions the focus and then abruptly takes off in a different direction — but with coherent presentation, the focus can be placed in a wider context. For example;

Relevance[edit]

Stories are judged on a case-by-case basis; editors may have somewhat differing opinions on the definition of "relevant". However, here are some guidelines for whether a story is likely to be considered acceptably relevant:

  • How many people does the story impact? To how many people would this story be relevant? If the answer is a few hundred or less, the story would probably not be significant enough for inclusion.
  • Is the story getting coverage in the mainstream media? If not, then that could — but not always — be an indicator that the story isn't relevant to enough people, even at the local level. There is a flip side to this — if a story is being covered by many news sources, that does not necessarily indicate that the story must be newsworthy enough for our standards. In this case, one should apply the impact/relevancy question described above.

The car crash test[edit]

A good test is to compare the story to a minor traffic collision of the sort that might grace the pages of a local paper. This might be considered the very lowest end of what would be sufficiently newsworthy local news. If the story is less important than that, it's not likely to be published. Examples of acceptable articles at the lowest end of the newsworthiness scale are;

The Wikimedia exception[edit]

Historically, Wikinews often published articles about sister projects of the Wikimedia Foundation. In recent years this has come to be frowned upon as "navel gazing". Stories about Wikipedia etc are not banned, but the bar is set slightly higher in this regard, not least because there are dedicated internal newsletters. Examples of articles that are acceptable are;

Freshness[edit]

link=Wikinews:Newsworthiness Facts don't cease to be facts, but news ceases to be news link=Wikinews:Newsworthiness

Wikinews saying

The focus of a Wikinews article must be fresh when the article is published.

An unpublished article is typically considered stale when it's two or three days old. There are two exceptions to this: one for reporting on a story where new information about the event comes to light days later, and one for original reporting; we'll discuss these in more detail below.

Just when an article goes stale depends on context; for example, how the story develops after the article is written, and how widely the event has been covered by the mainstream. With the exceptions noted, it's very rare for an article to be published more than three calendar days (in UTC, the time Wikinews keeps) after what the article is reporting.

New information[edit]

If the event was in the last seven days but new information came to light in the last 2–3 days then the article is still acceptable. In most cases however the new information will be suitable to refocus on, with a headline and lede identifying the new information as the event is being reported on.

Original reporting[edit]

Original material can also enhance freshness. Exclusive content has the potential to extend our freshness horizon by days or even weeks, depending on the nature of the original material. Note however this is an advanced technique and it is strongly recommended editors get to grips with writing before graduating to original reporting. Here are examples:

Becoming the news[edit]

Sometimes, original material will be an event in its own right. This might be in the form of an exclusive interview with somebody important, or it may mean the release of documents exclusively to Wikinews. Though even this will eventually go stale, there is great leeway in timeframes for releasing such material.

Here are some examples:

Breaking news[edit]

If there's a major new development in the story after the article is written, the article might go stale much faster than two or three days. In intense situations, an article can be stale already a few hours after the event. The deciding factor is, would it feel 'behind the times' to publish an article about the event without mentioning the new development.

This can make it challenging to cover a rapidly developing story on Wikinews, but there are several things you can do to increase your chances of things working out.

  • Use the special {{urgent review}} tag that warns reviewers time is unusually critical for this article because it might go stale much faster than most articles do. (Don't abuse this tag: it isn't for articles that are on the verge of going stale at the normal pace.)
  • Have someone on-hand who's willing and able to review the article immediately. This can work if you know about the need ahead of time, or if you can find someone (perhaps on IRC) in the event.
  • Communicate with the reviewer by some more direct channel than wiki collaboration pages; typically, we've used IRC for this. Direct communication can shave hours off the review process, because if the reviewer has a problem they can talk to you in real time and avoid a clumsy, time-consuming cycle of not-ready/revise/resubmit.
  • If you foresee a possible problem, try to phrase the article 'robustly', so it's more likely to remain true, and hopefully remain news, even if other things happen before it's published. This can be tricky, and won't always work, but statistically you can improve your chances this way. Emphasize discrete things that happened, that may be of interest even if something else happens later. When feasible, try to avoid open-ended statements about the continuing state of things, that are at a high risk of ceasing to be true at any moment and thereby spoiling the article.