Wikinews:Water cooler/policy/archives/2009/November

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Newsworthiness - how to define it?

I've recently noticed that, while we frequently mention newsworthiness and have a {{newsworthy}} template, we don't have a policy on it, or anything in the help/policy/guideline pages that describes how much newsworthiness a story needs before it can be published. This was especially brought to my attention when a new user created Benet Academy students raise money for leukemia patient, a very local news article, and was a bit confused as to why it wasn't newsworthy enough for publication. See also the thread on my talk page. The closest we have to newsworthiness criteria is at WN:CG as far as I can tell: "News must be relevant", which is very vague and subjective. I'd like to suggest we create a policy page (or at least guideline) that gives pointers on what our minimum standards for "newsworthiness" is. Thoughts? Tempodivalse [talk] 03:18, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

I steered clear of that particular article less-so for notability, more because the sources were crappy and of questionably credibility. I think newsworthiness could be a particularly contentious issue to try and nail down as a policy. --Brian McNeil / talk 09:48, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
Well we all agree that something like User:Edbrown05/Grass in Uncle G's back garden continues to grow is not news worthy. But where the line is, is a very good question, and one i think that would be very hard to figure out. In many ways this is similiar to Wikipedia's issue of what is notable, perhaps we can maybe look there for some ideas how to define newsworthiness (as in to see how they go about defining it, there definition of notability obviously is not a good definition of news worthiness). Bawolff 13:25, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

I thought there was a newsworthiness policy — a very flexible and subjective one, which I think are probably beneficial traits, at least at the size and stage of development where we are now. Template:Newsworthy refers to WikiNews:Content guide, which says:

  • News is relevant. Being Wikinews — global and Internet-based — stories about local news may need to have their relevance explained for our international audience. Stories should appeal to a large number of people.

This doesn't actually say no local stories, although it does seem somewhat discouraging of them. And even that could have unfortunate long-term consequences. There is a deep question here about possible directions for the long-term evolution of WikiNews. Perhaps what we should be doing is providing more guidance on how to include local stories, making them as comprehensible and interesting for a wider audience as may be, and at the same time providing some sort of additional/modified infrastructure so that they don't become annoying clutter for those readers who aren't interested in them. Imagine a future in which Wikinews is a major source of news, both local and non-local, for myriad (English-speaking, in our case) localities around the world, with orders of magnitude more throughput than we have now. It's not that different a concept from Wikipedia providing lots of specialized articles, that might be looked at by anyone, but are only likely to be relevant to people with certain interests. --Pi zero (talk) 16:10, 12 November 2009 (UTC)


One thing I often make reference to is the fact that a traffic accident is typical local news. If the article is of similar 'importance' (in a news sense) to articles like Driver hits median strip, rolls vehicle in NSW, Australia, then it is newsworthy enough for inclusion without doubt. Just to throw that out there. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 18:40, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

  • This is why I'm leery of trying to formulate a 'hard' policy. Perhaps the biggest problem we face is ultra-local or "microinterest" stuff that is questionable. The usual problem with things like this is that the contributors working on them are involved and have a likely COI. The kill on sight ones are those you see using SEO techniques to promote their project or interest; yes, a lot of them are gamer sites pushing how they've got the latest news on something. --Brian McNeil / talk 19:27, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
  • I think we need some kind of guideline, even if it's reasonably vague. "Significant coverage in other mainstream (non-local) news organisations" would be the best criterion, in my opinion, but I'm reasonably happy with what we have now. Dendodge T\C 20:14, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Not ban local coverage, just not include anything that hasn't made its way onto the BBC or CNN or similar. If they don't consider it newsworthy, we can probably also do without it. All it serves to do is clog newpages with stuff people outside of that region are unlikely to read. Perhaps "of interest to people outside of a certain geographic area" would be better? Dendodge T\C 20:24, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
  • To me, not including anything that isn't on national news sites pretty much is a ban on local news. It's often quite haphazard what does and does not end up there and the best sources would tend to be the local ones anyway. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 20:33, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Limiting what we can report on to international news sources is not a very good idea, i think. We'd miss out on a lot of legitimate local news that way. My idea was not to create a "hard" policy on it, but to make some mention that "micro-local" (i.e. not very significant even at the local level) stories, such as Benet Academy students raise money for leukemia patient, are probably not going to be accepted. Tempodivalse [talk] 20:54, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
  • I think you're probably right. A vague guideline is better than an en.wp-style hard policy. Cases should be assessed on their individual merits, not against a checklist of bureaucratic criteria. The last thing I want to do is ban local news. I think the hard part comes when we try to set a dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable local stories. I don't think, having thought about it more, that my proposals for a hard line are very good, and think a simple recommendation (with examples) would work better. Dendodge T\C 21:21, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

Hey guys, sorry if I essentially opened up Pandora's box when I wrote that Benet article, but this discussion does bring up a point: how should "local news" be defined? Benny the mascot (talk) 22:11, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

"Local news", from my perspective, is news that's only concerns/is of significance within a relatively small area or population (i.e. a town, small city, city district, etc. etc.), and isn't relevant to many people outside that area. (does that make sense?) I don't think there's any strict boundary between "local" and "national/international" news, it's pretty subjective and really depends on one's definition of "local". Tempodivalse [talk] 22:28, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
There is a reason for Category:Local only. Were Wikinews contributed to by as many people as Wikipedia there should be absolutely no reason to stop doing the legitimate local news. This — in theory — is the point of the Portal: namespace. If we end up with 20-30 people reporting from Pakistan and India, then those contributors can have a portal where they pick the leads for their geographic audience.
If you take the time to really explore something like the BBC News and Sport websites you'll find lots of interesting coverage that rarely makes the front page. A real gem to look out for hidden there is BBC Monitoring.
Wikinews can have authority by depth; well put together local news is a part of that. --Brian McNeil / talk 22:14, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
I forgot we had "Local only"! I have nothing against any news, no matter how narrow its scope, as long as it does not push more important (in a news sense, not in the sense that students with lukaemia are unimportant, as that is obviously untrue) news off the DPLs and Latest News listings, while still allowing people who are genuinely interested to access it (through categories and/or portals). Dendodge T\C 22:53, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
Aren't school related articles, therefore, to be considered as local news? A school is essentially a community of kids living in the same region. Benny the mascot (talk) 23:00, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Perhaps. But it does not make it a venue for you to publish your school newsletter. There are issues with contributor conflict of interest, self-promotion/PR, not to mention verifiability. --Brian McNeil / talk 23:37, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
    • I would be fine with banning articles on trivial topics such as schools' extracurricular organizations, but since when did supporting a leukemia patient become NOT newsworthy? Benny the mascot (talk) 04:42, 13 November 2009 (UTC)
    • When you 'only' raised $205. I appreciate that's a very worthwhile result, but newsworthy? That is where this kind of discussion starts. Actually, we've needed to have this one for a while, so whatever we decide, the article did *something* important. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 07:40, 13 November 2009 (UTC)
Sometimes, just providing intuition with more raw data can jump-start it. So in that spirit, how much would they have to have raised to make it newsworthy? We can probably agree that it would be news if they'd raised $205 million; and the boundary between the two is presumably fuzzy, but roughly where would that fuzzy boundary be? Would it be newsworthy at $205 thousand? $20.5 thousand? What about $2050? --Pi zero (talk) 13:32, 13 November 2009 (UTC)
I'd say it's contextual; it can depend on the total annual income for the charity, the annual charitable donations by a group, or how it compares with the local GDP. Each case would need considered on merit. Perhaps better trying to build a list of questions; the story submitter reviews them and lists data for where there's a "yes" answer as a list of 'newsworthiness criteria'. $500 might be a lot in one case - if it was something like a village in Africa locally raising the funds to buy a small computer or a server for their OLPC users. --Brian McNeil / talk 18:06, 13 November 2009 (UTC)
I find myself in complete agreement with Brian. Context is everything (c.f. my comment above). I like the idea of a list of questions: we could have a number of them, and an article may not have to fulfil every single one, just use it as a general guide as to the sense of newsworthiness (I don't believe in too many hard and fast rules or ticking every single box; sometimes things come down to judgement). I think one of the things that defines newsworthiness to me, is a story being out of the ordinary or being a notable achievement (though this introduces more fuzzy notions I fear). Something that is the exception, rather than the rule for example—a recent story on the BBC springs to mind, where an Indian schoolboy, after finishing his classes, went back to his village and was headmaster in a makeshift school for over 300 or so slightly-younger students, who otherwise would have had no education. Another thing maybe to bear in mind is the list of categories currently set up as guiding factors: whilst of course we can create new ones, they give a broad idea of what sort of articles we currently publish. Obviously these will develop over time, and I'm all for change. --Александр Дмитрий (Alexandr Dmitri) (talk) 05:51, 14 November 2009 (UTC)

Based on the gedankenexperiment about quantities of money raised, I was thinking that unusual-ness contributes to newsworthiness; and, thinking that that can't possible be all there is to it, I decided that having impact on a large number of people contributes to newsworthiness. But then I came across this story: London Lord Mayor's Show draws crowds despite bad weather. I loved this story. Why is it newsworthy? Yes, there's an historical connection between that culture and mine, but I'm pretty sure I'd similarly enjoy an analogous story in a different cultural setting... unless we got glutted with them. So maybe unusual-ness comes into play; but if so then, it seems to me, unusual-ness has such sweeping breadth to it that different aspects of it need separate explanation. And there's some sort of local-interest floating around here, of a sort that, I think, has some appeal for an international audience. Can stories be of equal local interest, yet not of equal newsworthiness by our standards because of how they'll play to a wider audience? And, is there something wrong with a notion of newsworthiness that would cause local stories to become less newsworthy simply because the number of them increases? --Pi zero (talk) 14:54, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

  • I tend to agree about the issue of newsworthiness relating to the Lord Mayor story. It's a long-held tradition, most people in the UK will know about it - if not seen one of the stagings of the event on TV - and there were topical items in it; the new Lord Mayor having a finance background, and linking him to the RAF. It, also, doesn't qualify as the same sort of crass commercialism as a multinational spending similar sums to make people by something. --Brian McNeil / talk 21:59, 20 November 2009 (UTC)
    • Yeah, when writing that article I was really surprised how little coverage it got elsewhere this year - it's normally quite a big event. More generally, I wouldn't like to shut out articles that are seen as "local" if they are sufficiently unusual and well-written. I don't think we can, or should, try to define hard criteria. But perhaps we could keep a list somewhere of articles that were deemed un-newsworthy to give people guidance. the wub "?!" 23:53, 20 November 2009 (UTC)

{{breaking}} and {{breaking review}} abuse

This, 40th H1N1 swine flu death recorded in Scotland, by no stretch of the imagination, can be considered deserving of an urgent review.

All the — oft-repeated — expert opinions are that H1N1-A is no more deadly than the general annual flu season. There is some difference in the groups where serious illness and death occurs, but it is not new, it is not killing thousands, and it is well-understood.

Not to mention that when I just looked at the opening of the above article it started, "A Adult".

I'm sure there's a few other people might like to give an opinion on use of {{breaking}} and {{breaking review}}. I don't think we should follow the Fox-style dramatisation of news and attention-grabbing tactics splattering things like that over everything entails. --Brian McNeil / talk 17:26, 20 November 2009 (UTC)

I agree. I've also noticed that {{breaking}} seems to be used as an excuse to to hash out a mediocre article. –Juliancolton | Talk 17:29, 20 November 2009 (UTC)
I agree too. In my opinion, the {{breaking}} and {{breaking review}} tags should only be used when the story is about something that has happened just minutes ago, or when it's an event that's actively ongoing and likely to change dramatically within a short period of time - e.g., stuff like the Fort Hood shootings or the Hudson River jet crash. Maybe we should create a guideline page to give suggestions and explanations for when the breaking tags are appropriate? Tempodivalse [talk] 17:48, 20 November 2009 (UTC)
I'd like to have slightly more leeway with the {{breaking review}} template. My reasoning behind that is that sometimes when a story unlikely to change breaks (EU Presidency, for example) it is nice to throw the article out in a timescale to match the newswires. Julian raises a good point though: the excuse behind a crappy article. We can have crappy filler articles if no-one writes anything better, but we should be careful not to do that purely because that's all we have to do. Wikinews at its best os going above and beyond. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 18:29, 20 November 2009 (UTC)
There is a narrow window of opportunity where, for the new EU Pres story, we could have beat the NYT twitter feed. It is never an excuse to submit something for review that, within the first sentence, breaks rules of English you should learn before nine or ten. --Brian McNeil / talk 21:54, 20 November 2009 (UTC)
My feeling concerning the use of the breaking review template is that either: (i) the information is hot off the press (so to speak) and we can position ourselves as a provider of the latest news (the EU Presidency article was a good example); (ii) the news is being updated regularly and so we don't want the article to sit around forever for review (Food Hood shootings spring to mind); and perhaps, and to be used sparingly, (iii) when the article is about an event that is to take place in a few hours (the celebrations for the anniversary of the Berlin Wall spring to mind). On the other hand, if the information is not going to change substantially in the next few hours, we should try and review the article as quickly as possible certainly, but we should not use the breaking review template as a means to draw attention to an article one would like to see reviewed quickly. That should come about through us (and I include myself here as being guilty of leaving articles up for review too long) clearing the backlog quicker. --Александр Дмитрий (Alexandr Dmitri) (talk) 09:41, 21 November 2009 (UTC)


Another point I'd like to raise is that sometimes it's unclear if we should use the template or not. I've been guilty, for example, of deeming based on my sources and the general spread on Gnews that the article is breaking, and therefore sticking the template on it. Of course, such articles rarely get updates and I find myself wondering wether it was appropriate to use the template. Just to throw that out there: When is breaking news not breaking news? Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 17:30, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

Archiving time

I've recently undone a rather large edit at Man misdiagnosed as being in coma for 23 years because it was made more than a day after the article was published. However, when looking at WN:ARCHIVE, it says that the limit for adding new info is 36 hours, not 24 or 31 hours as I had thought. Since the 1-day limit seems to be the current practise, perhaps the policy page should be changed accordingly? Thoughts? Tempodivalse [talk] 15:14, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

  • What I tend towards is substantial edits/additional sources within 12-24 hours, up to the 36 hour limit I prefer much less large edits (a sentence; possibly two) and absolutely no new sources. So, yes, 24 hours from review/publish seems okay. --Brian McNeil / talk 16:31, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Brian's stance is actually a tweak to the current, but it sounds sensible and it is mostly how we've done it. Just to throw something out there, though: We should never issue information from a date beyond the one it was published, even if it became available within 24 hours. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 18:50, 25 November 2009 (UTC)