I was a fairly long-term Wikipedia editor (>10,000 edits, > 18 months as of May 2006 under a different user name). For my participation on Wikinews, I felt that I should use my real name (or at least a partial version of my real name).
I live in Southern California and have a degree in Biological Science. It is likely that most of the articles that I will help write for Wikinews will be about Southern California or be something about the sciences, although the freelance writing that I've done in the past has covered a wider range of topics.
Some observations and suggestions about Wikinews
- Note: this is a work in progress
In my opinion, Wikinews currently does not have the personnel or resources to cover a wide range of news stories and therefore operate like a major news daily. That means that many of the news stories on the Wikinews have been basically rewrites of news from other sources. I don't think that really provides a good service for the Wikinews or makes good use of the wiki processes. These rewrites, in my opinion, also push the limits of fair use according to US copyright law (and have even changed the copyright notices of some news services).
Here are a few of my suggestions for Wikinews that should make a much more valuable news resource for its readers:
1) Overview and more comprehensive articles: Instead of emulating a daily newspaper, I think it is better to look at the articles in weekly and monthly newsmagazines as a model for most Wikinews articles (for example: TIME magazine, Newsweek, The Economist, or Der Spiegel). Instead of writing an article on the latest scientific study on nutritional supplements (i.e. over-the-counter medicinal herbs in the US), the article would use that report as the starting point for a discussion of that study and other studies that have done in the last couple of years, and also discuss the legal aspects of supplements. To do this type of report properly, it would probably require that Wikinews reporters volunteer for specific news beats.
2) News analysis: Here the model is the news analysis reports that the some AP editors do () such as Analysis: Democrats wary of November vote. These are news reports that go beyond just reporting the basic facts of who/what/where and instead tries to explain what the news means. This might require some modification of the Wikinews NPOV policy, but I think that this type of news story is okay for Wikinews as long as it is properly labeled and doesn't become an editorial or piece of advocacy.
3) Special topic news: There are quite a few websites that do a good job of reporting the news on specific topics, but if you are interested in several different topics, that means that you have to go to several different websites. General newspapers and news websites usually do a very poor job of reporting the news on special topics. Take science news for example. Even for the few major newspapers that have reporters assigned to a science beat, they can only do a few large articles per week and rely upon the AP and other news services for the few other science news articles that they do each week.
4) Regional and international comparisons and overviews: Other places in the same country and other places around the world experience many of the same problems, but often come up with different solutions. For example, a news report about a death row inmate exonerated by DNA evidence could be a starting point for looking at how different states and different counties handle DNA evidence (and Capital punishment).
6) News Gateway: The Guardian's World News Guide is a great resource listing English-language publications around the world. They all do interesting reporting on both local and international issues. It would be great to see a "Best of International News" highlighting some of the best and most interesting news around the world.
A Couple of other points
Here are a couple of other points that I think need to be considered:
a) Wikinews is not paper, and not a 'newspaper': Both issues really need to be looked at. What the websites for w:mainstream media (MSM) organizations do, for the most part, is republish what has been printed in their print publications. Publication on the internet, however, does not have the same constraints as print publications. Everything including titles, formatting, and article length, should be reconsidered and reevaluated.
b) Wikinews is an internet publication: A major frustration for me when reading news articles on MSM websites is that they rarely take full advantage of the interconnectivity that the internet facilitates. A science article, for example, will often refer to an article in Science magazine, for example, without providing a link to the original article. An article on a disease, especially a rare one, should have links to one or more good references for the reader to get further information. If the article is on a natural disaster, there should be links for readers who would like to donate to disaster relief organizations.
A final comment
I also think that Wikinews should regularly poll its readers to see what they link about Wikinews, and where they would like to see improvements (as well as soliciting comments about what they like and don't like about other internet news sources).
An interesting article on the potentials of citizen journalism
- "It’s interesting to think about other subjects where citizen media might be able to bring expertise to the table that professional journalists might lack. When Grigoi Perelman refused the Field Medal for his work proving Poincaire’s conjecture, most newspapers didn’t even attempt to explain the substance of Perelman’s work - it would have been interesting to see how a citizen media site with mathematician reporters would have covered the story. (Alas, Wikinews, which likely had mathematicians reporting the story didn’t do much better. At least they tried.) Mathematician reporters would also have an interesting set of insights on stories involving economic statistics, statistical analysis, climate change extrapolations… it makes you wonder why math departments aren’t encouraging projects like Jurist."
- Citizen journalism – NUJ launches Code w:National Union of Journalists (British Isles)
- "The NUJ launched a code of practice to address the important issues raised by the phenomenon of ‘citizen journalism’ last week (24/1/05). It will be known as the Witness Contributors’ Code of Practice."
- 'Witness Contributors’ Code of Practice .DOC file
- Center for Citizen Media: w:University of California and w:Harvard Law School
- BBC's Good Shooting Guide: the basic principles w:BBC
- Our Media: Personal Media Learning Center
- WikiNews: Original Reporting
- J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism w:Pew Center for Civic Journalism
- The Largemouth Citizen Journalism Manual
- South Carolina Citizen Journalism Project: The First Year