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Mechanical engineer by day, grammarian by night. I live in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, approximately.

"What I care about is whether journalism - the process of hunting down factual information and verifying it - survives and thrives somewhere, somehow." --Rebecca MacKinnon, March 3, 2005

Here is my tweaked version of the Main Page.

Why the Wikinews juggernaut will crush all in its path


1. Wikinews is cheap


Fifteen years ago, before the Internet was widespread, a large fraction of the cost of journalism was in the distribution. To reach a large audience, you had to use paper, radio, or television. All of those media are expensive. After distribution (or maybe before-- I'm not sure), you have to pay your reporters. Wikinews saves those costs too. Currently, Wikinews is reaching thousands of people for less than $100 per day.

2. Wikinews has a distributed workforce.


When I'm going to sleep each night, the Australians are just waking up; we usually overlap on IRC. The workforce is still small, but we already have people contributing 24 hours per day.

3. Writing news is more satisfying than vandalism.


It is true that at any moment, any Wikinews reader can insert nonsense into any article. That might be fun for a few minutes, but it gets boring pretty quickly. On the other side is the satisfaction that the regular Wikinews contributors get from maintaining the site. The stream of recent changes is monitored by several people; my impression is that most contributions from an anonymous reader or a new username gets checked by one of the Wikinews regulars.

4. An increasing fraction of news happens on the web.


Technology news, in particular, occurs on the web. While Wikinews will probably have a hard time reporting on combat zones, we're on equal footing with the rest of the media when it comes to the web. As an example, take the recent New York Times story about religious blogs. All of the news involved occurs in the development of various religious blogs on the web. Product launches are another example-- once you read the press release, you've got the story. We can add details and context from other sources, but the physical location of the products is no longer interesting.

5. We have the passion.


If I were a journalist working at a big paper, I expect that I would have to write a lot of stories that don't interest me-- "Town of Thornton, Colorado, gets new bike path." With Wikinews, if I'm not interested in it, I don't write about it. I suspect that news written by people who care about their subjects will generally come out better than news by people who are writing for a paycheck, if all other factors were equal. In the world we actually live in, the people who get paid to write start with more talent and get more practice than the amateurs. On the other hand, all of the journalists who bend to corporate rules rather than lose their jobs are also professionals.

6. We have a gap to fill.


The coverage of large media companies corresponds to the gross domestic product of the subjects. Events in Africa, for example, are vastly underreported in the United States. It's a complex issue, so look at Ethan Zuckerman's analysis. Wikinews can help fix this. I maintain that 1 million native speakers of Swahili getting their first word processor is an important story, even though no major media outlet has covered it yet.