My primary focus currently is "The Problem of the Media" (to quote a book title by Robert W. McChesney). Democracy is best served by media that match political jurisdictions, according to researchers Snyder and Strömberg, with audience-controlled subsidies like those provided by the US Postal Service Act of 1792. Under that act, newspapers were delivered up to 100 miles for a penny, when first class postage was between 6 and 25 cents depending on distance.
I believe that Wikinews, with a few changes and the right fund raising and publicity campaign, could potentially be built into the premier news site worldwide. This could be extremely valuable for reducing political corruption and violent conflicts and for increasing democratic participation and broadly shared economic growth; see my recent Winning the War on Terror.
To accomplish this, Wikinews would need a radically different interface that could be tailored to each user's profile: News articles could be prioritized based on geographic location(s) and political and social organizations of greatest interest to that individual. The landing page for Wikinews could feature links to all the local sources of news in addition to material written specifically for Wikinews, all prioritized to best match the user's profile and browsing history.
To achieve this vision, Wikinews would also need, I think, editorial policies that invite contributions from people with no desire to become professional journalists. The current standard outlined in Wikinews:Article layout in a nutshell could still apply to featured articles. However, I think we want to encourage people everywhere to provide factual, hyper-local content, that is written from a neutral point of view citing credible sources. It would need to comply with local libel and copyright laws. However, articles should be accepted whether or not the writing style meets professional journalism standards, e.g., in the AP Stylebook.
Regarding citations, I think Wikinews should encourage rather than discourage footnotes. My model for this is Le Monde diplomatique, a monthly newspaper distributed in 37 international editions in 20 languages: Most articles include footnotes. I find them extremely valuable, because if I see two sources that seem to conflict, I can check their sources. When I've done this, I've often found an interpretation that makes both my sources correct. If one source fails to cite sources, I'm stuck. That source may be correct, but I have no practical way of checking.
I think "the premier news site in the world" should not depend on the ability to recruit unpaid and paid professional journalists to write articles. To the extent that budget could be raised (inside or outside the Wikimedia Foundation) to pay professional journalists, their first priority should be to make effective use of volunteers: Help volunteers feel valued as they contribute in ways that are legal and not likely to cause them to be incarcerated or killed nor likely to lead to legal action against them or the Wikimedia foundation.
For example, many local chapters of the League of Women Voters in the US have an "observer corps" of volunteers, who attend public meetings of local governmental bodies, and write summaries of their observations. Those summaries are further summarized and published on monthly newsletters. I think we could invite observers like these to publish their notes on Wikinews. We should push these contributors to write from a neutral point of view citing credible sources. However, I think we should not push these contributors much regarding prose style, as doing so would likely reduce their willingness to contribute (I think).
Having professional journalists actually write articles should, I think, be a second priority, to be pursued only to the extent that volunteers seem to be adequately supported and encouraged. This seems very different from Jimmy Wales proposed WikiTribune, which reportedly plans to use professional journalists to "research and report news stories alongside volunteers who curate articles by proofreading, fact-checking, suggesting changes and adding sources." Financial supporters for both WikiTribune and Wikinews could also help select topics for investigations.
I'm proposing to lead a "Birds of a Feather" discussion at Wikimania 2017 in Montreal. Your comments and even help in revising the proposal would be welcomed: See Submissions/Building Wikinews into the premier news site worldwide.
p.s. I'm an engineer with a PhD in statistics, a Vietnam-era veteran of the US military, founder of EndowmentForJournalism.org and EffectiveDefense.org, and a member of the Board of 90.1 FM, KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio.
Wikinews articles to which I've contributed
- Citation | date = July 2015 | title = Éditions internationales | publisher = Le Monde Diplomatique | language = French | url = http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/diplo/int/ | accessdate = 2017-04-28