Wikinews:Water cooler/policy/archives/2010/October

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Policy or guidelines for reporting natural disasters

To be honest, I think it's about time we had some fixed, proper guidelines for the reporting of incidents and natural disasters, such as earthquakes. When I first joined WN a few years ago, I was told in the IRC channel that as a general rule, we don't publish stories about earthquakes where they measure M6.0 or less. Now we have an article turning up about a 4.3 in Oklahoma, and the suggestion to just tag it as a local story. What concerns me is that without fixed guidelines over this kind of stuff, people are gonna get confused when being told one thing by one person, another thing by someone else, and so on.

I am requesting thoughts on the introduction of guidelines or a policy denoting which types of natural disasters to report and the limits for doing so - plus any major exceptions in the event of serious incidents major occurrences and anything out of the ordinary.

Thoughts welcome, please keep them constructive if possible :)

BarkingFish (talk) 20:42, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

As a rule of thumb, anything which results in a)death or serious injury b)disruption e.g. to transport or whatever and/or c)'worthwhile' damage can be reported, though if we're looking at options b/c we will have to judge severity - it may be a local story, and judging worthwhile in a local context is tricky.
A more difficult question is setting some base guidelines on what we won't ever report on. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 20:49, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
  • BRS, neatly, turns this on it's head. What if any quake in Oklahoma is incredibly rare? Then it becomes newsworthy.--Brian McNeil / talk 21:00, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
  • And quite neatly, you give me something else to think about, Brian. I am not sure, to be totally honest, whether I've heard of a quake in Oklahoma before, and I watch USGS quite a lot for larger ones, especially in the South Pacific, but I do see others... Maybe I should modify my proposal above and reword it slightly...which I've now done.
  • In response to BRS, I'd say that with regard to judging worthwhile in a local context, I'd normally go for it if it makes broadcast or printed news in the place where it occurred, and surrounding areas (for example, if the OK. quake made TV News in Oklahoma, and the surrounding states) or as you say, if it caused major damage, killed people or disrupted normal life (damaged public transport, collapsed bridges etc.) I'd consider it well within the bounds of newsworthy. BarkingFish (talk) 23:04, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
My understanding of natural disaster reporting is this:
  • If there are deaths or significant damage, the it is definitely a story. (ie, large earthquake, major volcanic eruption)
  • If there are injuries, a fair amount of damage, or disruption of a significant event then it can be a story. (ie for that last one: small election day earthquake, no damage, disrupts vote)
  • If it is an unusual or unprecedented disaster in the area in which it occurred, then it might possibly be a story. (ie, small meteorite lands in someone's backyard. Tiny disaster with no significant damage or disruption, but an unusual event. Small non-rare disasters also apply if they are unusual in the area in which they took place.)
I could be mistaken, but that's always been my understanding of how disaster reporting worked. Gopher65talk 23:36, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
  • My work here is done (just kidding). I've looked at the subbed story, it's effectively useless. My gut reaction is to strongly disagree with Diego that it is newsworthy. That said, if records were to show it as the biggest Oklahoma quake in 50-100 years, I'd be wrong; but that would have to be clearly articulated within the copy. This is why I'm disinclined to try and set hard standards for newsworthiness on any topic. The no-brainers are "OMG! The cat ate my Hamster!" but, "OMG! Freddy Starr ate my hamster!",... Maybe - as long as he had it with a nice glass of Chianti. --Brian McNeil / talk 00:33, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
    • That brings us to another newsorthiness issue I want ot bring up sometime; that of celeb gossip (with additions to WN:NOT and Newsworthiness). I mean, we've all heard that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990, but do we want Carter Fuck reminding us such claims are disputed? But, I digress... Which is fun... Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 16:09, 14 October 2010 (UTC)

Proposed addition to WN:Newsworthiness

  • To contain text something along the lines of "in general, any incident involving death or serious injury, significant disrutpion to daily life for a number of people or major damage to any object, building or infrastructure that is at least locally important is newsworthy. It should be noted that this does not apply to obits for ordinary people who died of generally unremarkable things, e.g. natural causes." Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 16:09, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
An interesting thought, but I have reservations. What we've got is very general, and speaks to the core underlying principles. The addition is rather specific, and not fundamental. I see emphasis on death and destruction, and death is newsworthy except when it isn't. Instruction creep? --Pi zero (talk) 21:43, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps creepy; but there is at least a perceived need to stop being so vague. Perhaps we should split a set of specifics from the main part of that page. In terms of emphasis... 'Tis merely a starting point. (We might look at keeping this on a 'non-canon' page at first and making it more official once we've got a better range of points.) Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 21:49, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

I'm with BRS on the celebrity nonsense. It, by and large, simply isn't news. It is engineered publicity. It should be left to the MSM who, casual inspection will reveal, have some sort of vested interest. Example: Any News International organ screaming about wannabe stars, or judges, on TV shows on channels also under the control of Rupert "Dirty Digger" Murdoch (Faux, Sky, ...).

Outwith that side-show of bread and circuses you find real news. Might I suggest some of our more dedicated non-UK contributors invest in a Private Eye subscription? It's UK focused, but likely the closest to The Fourth Estate on these shores. --Brian McNeil / talk 23:44, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

The problem is you're defining "news" as "incidents involving death or serious injury, disruption of daily life for a number people, major damage, plus obits." That seems extremely narrow. A policy initiative announcement by Mr Cameron, for example, fails this test of "newsworthiness". Even if it were "The UK is withdrawing from the United Nations, effective immediately." Perhaps some editing of the policy suggestion may be in order, starting with research of what journalism defines news as? - Amgine | t 04:56, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

Try reading it again, starting from the top. It's one single facet, in response to a request for comment on one single facet - in fact, the discussion is supposedly about natural disasters, so I've already expanded beyond the initial scope. At no point does it state anything other than some obits can possibly fail because it is not a "test of 'newsworthiness'" except in the circumstances we've just been discussing. It can be used to prove newsworthiness, but with one small exception cannot be used to disprove newsworthiness and at no point does the text imply otherwise. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 11:21, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

Nevada Republican opposes Angle for US Senate over 'extreme' anti-abortion position

Seems to me this article is in violation of the 24-hour policy. There is a claim of unacceptable content, which would make reversion an unacceptable remedy for the policy violation. However, material was substantially changed two days after publication, the manner of change may itself be unacceptable, and no correction notice was placed on the article.

How the article got where it is, as I understand it: About two days after publication, Amgine felt that some content in the article needed to be taken down immediately. Instead of removing the challenged material and appealing to the community, unfortunately the measure applied was depublication, which (besides not having the intended effect of removing the problematic material from presentation to our readership) had two effects on the further evolution of the article:

  • it did not turn the issue over to the community for impersonal decision-making, and
  • by framing the resolution in terms of an act of publication, it caused the 24-hour policy to be ignored.

Thereafter, Cirt made substantive changes to the article in order to put it into a state that Amgine considered acceptable.

I'm only aware of precedent for two kinds of late substantial measures applied to an article, both deemed to require community consultation:

  • In cases of ordinary factual error, the article content itself remains intact and a correction notice is placed at the top of the article.
  • In cases where material must be removed, the material is removed and a notice is placed at the top of the article (the most extreme case being that what is removed is the entire content of the article).

The de facto result of the actions taken in this case is that the article was substantially changed 47 hours after publication. If the community agrees with me that this is a violation of the archiving policy, there are two questions to answer.

  • What state should the problematic/altered material be put in? Is there a straightforward justification for some choice other than a binary decision whether to remove the problematic material?
  • Assuming that the article will not be restored to substantially its state as of 24 hours after publication, what notice should be placed at the top of the article?

--Pi zero (talk) 13:46, 19 October 2010 (UTC)


24 or 48 hours

The "24 hour rule" actually stretches to 48 hours, before users are automatically warned. See Template talk:Editintro notcurrent.
--InfantGorilla (talk) 15:48, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
The 48-hour / 2 day figure at Template:Editintro notcurrent is an error; evidently we forgot to update there after we standardized on 24 (previously even the policy page itself wasn't consistent, saying 36 hours in one place and 48 in another). I think the threshold for displaying that editintro is correct, even though, once displayed, it's still been saying the wrong thing all this time. --Pi zero (talk) 16:37, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
(No, looks like the threshold is out of date too. Figures if we forgot one we'd forget the other. --Pi zero (talk) 16:45, 19 October 2010 (UTC))
(I don't recall a discussion that agreed to cut "24-48" down to "24"). Until the "error" is fixed, any 'violations' have some leeway. --InfantGorilla (talk) 17:10, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
You were on Wikibreak, I believe. It was in the air for several months before we finally did it. Thumbing through through the archives, the deciding thread appears to have been WN:Water cooler/policy/archives/2010/March#Archiving discussion revived. --Pi zero (talk) 18:13, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes - a long wikibreak. Thanks for the archaeology. --InfantGorilla (talk) 18:58, 19 October 2010 (UTC)

challenged assertion

If I understand correctly, the challenged fact was restored, but with better sourcing. This understanding leads me to conclude that there is no benefit to readers in a {{correction}} banner, in this case.
--InfantGorilla (talk) 15:48, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
The challenged fact was an assertion "has ties to Scientology", not sourced. Cirt ultimately used a more circumspect phrasing, correctly sourced. - Amgine | t 15:54, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes; sorry, I should have provided a link. The net change to the article was this.
I am a bit baffled by the current edit, and by the claim that problematic material was removed. A sentence ends with "due to her views on.", and I can't figure out the meaning. Also "supporting a Scientology-backed prisoner rehabilitation program" is more specific than "links to", but not more circumspect. "Links to" doesn't seem to have been misleading.
If say that Pope Benedict is an Anglican, would I be defaming him, or merely making an error? If I say he has links to Anglicanism, I would be right, as he recently worshipped at Westminster Abbey.
--InfantGorilla (talk) 17:10, 19 October 2010 (UTC)

The difference may be exemplified by the following: Senator Reid's connections to organized crime vs Senator Reid's support of federal prisoner tax advice program, also supported by the Gambino family. As I hope this shows, there is a very great difference between what the two statements say, and imply. I would choose wording less innuendo-laden than Cirt selected, but I did not wish to get into such an editorial conflict. I believe the total time from depublishing to republishing was less than an hour; a revert war might have taken longer to resolve. - Amgine | t 20:07, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Amgine is probably correct here, this was in the end amicably resolved between the parties, until it was oddly dragged back up onto this page. Let us please move on. Can we please get back to writing and reviewing articles? Thanks. -- Cirt (talk) 20:10, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
If it had happened within 24 hours of publication, a private truce between you and Amgine would settle it. However, for a case involving late significant changes, as I understand policy/best practice/whatever one calls it, final disposition is decided by the community. (Note: what it should be called, policy or whatever, depends on whether the relevant discussion, which I remember as headed distinctly consensus-ward, actually closed the deal before it exceeded our short collective policy-attention span.) --Pi zero (talk) 02:51, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

Shape of the galaxy

FYI: Yesterday I edited Brazilian astronomers propose new model of our galaxy to remove a likely error, and posted a correction notice. It is on my watchlist, so you can discuss my actions at the article's talk page. --InfantGorilla (talk) 08:10, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

Does making a new article from a prior existing and then publishing it count as a self-publish violation?

Does making a new article from a prior existing and then publishing it count as a self-publish violation? Please see history from above-listed article, and this comment from the user that published it. Thank you for your time, -- Cirt (talk) 09:01, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

FYI: This was the diff that I reverted then posted as a new article:
  • //en.wikinews.org/w/index.php?title=One_dead_as_Super_Typhoon_Megi_makes_landfall_in_Philippines&action=historysubmit&diff=1115649&oldid=1115588
--InfantGorilla (talk) 09:18, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
This type of review/publish behavior opens the door to others taking this model down a slippery slope. -- Cirt (talk) 09:21, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
I'm sure it does, and it's a slope Wikinews should take. When articles go stale awaiting review, and minor revisions are necessary to update it to more-current information, I personally do not see a problem with doing so. If policy is getting in the way of publishing current, relevant news, policy must give way - not the news. - Amgine | t 16:43, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
What if the prior article was written by the same individual, but reviewed/published by someone else? Can the 2nd article then be reviewed/published by the writer of the 1st one? This questionable practice raises too many concerns. -- Cirt (talk) 19:15, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
Mmm, that changes the question focus. If an article were published, and the original author updated the article with additional, sourced, information, I believe the current practice frowns on but does not prohibit the original author from sighting the changes. That would suggest a similar approach - it's not best practice but is not specifically prohibited - would apply to the scenario you're suggesting. Clearly both cases represent a continuum; a massive rewrite resulting in essentially a completely different article from that originally published should not remain published nor should it be sighted by the author, while extremely minor changes should not be an obstacle to publication. Common sense, plain language, should be the guide, not an endlessly precise pre-/pro-scriptive set of rules. - Amgine | t 02:48, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Actually, current practice does indeed prohibit the original author from sighting the changes. -- Cirt (talk) 05:40, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Current policy. (That is, for once we didn't forget to update the written policy — remembering that passage discovered in the archiving policy last spring, then still in place from 2005, saying that we didn't have any formal review process.)
Do we have (or, more likely, could we make) a tool that takes an existing published article and makes a developing copy of it under a specified new name with a related-news link back to the existing published one? The tool should actually save the modified copy, rather than merely presenting it for editing, to make it easier to keep track of the comparison/contrast between old and new articles. (Remove {{publish}}, add {{develop}}, add Related news, save unsighted under new name. Careful logic to make sure it's robust under weird conditions, such as an article with multiple {{publish}} tags or an explicit [Category:publish].) --Pi zero (talk) 12:07, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
<nods> It seems practice is less consistent on this point; though the policy is not well-described it is clear enough. - Amgine | t 18:38, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Does it seem that way to you? My subjective impression was that we were doing rather better than that sounds. --Pi zero (talk) 21:40, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
My impression is it's about 90%, which is reasonably consistent. Not, I would say, supportive of a blanket policy ban per practice, but certainly very high. - Amgine | t 03:58, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

┌─────────────────────────────────┘
I actually can't quite parse that last sentence.

There is, of course, the matter of taking down material suspected of being harmful (copyvio, libel), which experienced Wikinewsies know overrides everything else. And then there's the fact that applying the no-self-review rule to post-EPR edits involves two judgment calls, where applying it to EPR involves only one.

  • In both cases, the reviewer has to decide whether they're sufficiently independent. That's easy if they're the primary author (of the article, of the edit); it takes more experience, I think, to make the call when one makes small-in-relative-terms corrective changes to someone else's work as part of reviewing it. A good reviewer does make changes to the article when peer-reviewing it, changes that would not be acceptable if they were made after EPR rather than before — because after peer review they would be standalone edits, and as standalone edits they're too substantive to be sighted by the person who made them. But there also comes a point at which an edit disqualifies the editor from peer-reviewing the article. I found myself in that position recently with Macaque kills newborn in Malaysia.
  • In the post-EPR edit case, there must be an additional judgment call on whether the edit is substantive. That's not a new question, but before the disabling of autosight, it didn't apply to edits within the first 24 hours (previously 36/48 hours), which is after all when substantive changes are most likely to be spotted.

But, acknowledging those considerations, clear-cut substantive self-review is always a case where we should do better, and when I see one I leave a note on the reviewer's talk page. I think I've only had occasion to do that maybe two or three times, in all the time since autosight was turned off, and in each case it emerged that the reviewer had not been aware of that facet of policy (typically a long-standing reviewer who hadn't been around when the policy discussion was going on or when it was being spammed as the sitenotice... and maybe we should put it on the sitenotice rotation). I'd like to think the small number of those notes I've left reflected rarity of clear-cut violations, rather than only rarity of my noticing them. --Pi zero (talk) 14:18, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

Pleonasm; omit needless words

IG reverted a rename, and substantial new late updates, by the original author - who I advised to start a new article.

If IG did no more than form a correct new article instead of Wikipediaesque perpetual updates, I see no fault on his part. --Brian McNeil / talk 22:19, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

Journalism and ethics in "new" media

Hey Wikinews :)

I saw this come across my twitter feed today, and found it interesting. Calling it to your attention, because I thought you'd enjoy it.

Philippe (WMF) (talk) 22:36, 24 October 2010 (UTC)

On Censorship

I've noticed the following: Sometimes people feel as though they've been censored here. Whether this is actual or just perceptual, there is a responsibility for oversight in a multi-layered organization that's also a community!

Here are three possible "fixes" that won't cause any damage, and might add to this wonderful place:

1.) An Admin who has the ability to email Contributors might send out an email saying something like "Have you been or felt like you were censored on WikiNews? We're doing a story on censorship here, and we'd like your input." It will give people who aren't Admins to make their voices better heard, and also is newsworthy! An article entitled "Censorship on WikiNews" might be of interest, and, if so, might be something like a twice-yearly feature.

2.) It might be nice if Sysops would have a tag where contributors can see which is online, so if an Admin is maybe making a questionable call, someone who's not so well connected can get another experienced voice to come into a discussion? Such a tag ought to be easy to spot for the novice Contributor.

3.) Do away with the wording "Neutral Point of View." I like "Fact-Based Point of View" much better, since it reflects a good, universal journalistic integrity. FBPOV.

Sorry for the rant!The san gabriel mountains (talk) 00:16, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

I've been ignoring this conversation for the last month or so, but thought I'd pop back in. Here's the issues I see with your proposal (Hopefully this doesn't sound too negative. I like people how have fresh ideas). For point A, that seems like a massive self reference. I don't think we should write about ourselves, but thats just imho. Second point has technical difficulties (I think status bot like things were banned on en 'pedia). However, all users should feel free to go on irc to try and get a second opinion (or pm an admin on irc if they don't want to say it in a public chat room). For point 3: NPOV is something very core to the identity of Wikinews, and more generally the Wikimedia movement in general. I'd like to see some very good justifications for why this is a good idea. Also when you say fact based, who determines what is "fact"? The world is complicated, and what is 'fact' especially complicated. Bawolff 00:29, 25 October 2010 (UTC)
  1. Wikinews is not WikiNews.
  2. What specific examples of alleged censorship can you cite with links to diffs of such?
  3. Wikinews should not engage in navel-gazing, which is what you appear to propose.
  4. Neutral Point of View is non-negotiable; all Wikimedia Foundation projects are required to adopt, largely unchanged, versions of this policy.
Really, I don't see the point to this"complaint/proposal"; briefly explain what the issue that vexes you is. --Brian McNeil / talk 12:10, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

I just did an advanced search with the term "censorship" and all of the "Talk" categories checked. Yes, there are people feeling as though they've been censored on this website. To do nothing is not a good choice, and generally self-reference is also not a good choice ... but ... in the case of keeping the community straight, this is the exception that proves the rule. Imagine a dictator who never wanted to hear s/he was wrong!The San Gabriel Mountains (talk) 06:48, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

Wikinews censors viciously. The project does not allow uncited factual statements, stale news. There are regular disagreements as to what content is news or news-worthy. A regular examination of what Wikinews articles are and are not can reduce the desire to cry "censorship", but I'm sure you're aware that povioring is both a pasttime and a profession on the internet. - Amgine | t 19:44, 27 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Back up your censorship whingeing with something concrete instead of wasting the community's time. An 'I proovified it with teh Google' isn't worth the recycled electrons it's transmitted with. Wikinews deals with verifiable facts. You have produced none; do so, or one of our friendly neighbourhood administrators might just "censor" this trollish discusson. -Brian McNeil / talk 17:38, 29 October 2010 (UTC)

Thank you! That's exactly my point -- there should be some real data! NB also that Bawolff is right on all three -- generally self-reference is not a good thing; such a task as sending out emails ought to be done by hand, not bot; and, the facts can be dodgy, but not more so than neutral, maybe less. I'd do it myself if I were an admin, and maybe will wait the time and apply to do it. Thanks for the input.The San Gabriel Mountains (talk) 22:05, 31 October 2010 (UTC)

Troublesome possible source

I added newsonnews to MediaWiki:Spam-blacklist per the following conversation copied from Fetchcomm's talk page --InfantGorilla (talk) 15:16, 29 October 2010 (UTC)

  • Nice, prompt, preemptive work IG. And, thanks for highlighting it here too. Now, if we could just add The Sun, Faux News, and the rest of Rupert "Dirty Digger"'s stable of publications to the list... (I jest, but only just.). --Brian McNeil / talk 17:47, 29 October 2010 (UTC)