Wikinews:Water cooler/proposals/archives/2014/September

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Shorts

I have recently come across the idea of shorts. Is there any reason shorts are so rarely produced? Are these a good place to put the beginnings of multiple articles, if the editor does not have time to write them all up, to be expanded later either by the original editor or someone else, or for other stories to be added to. Or would less, more developed articles be preferable? CSJJ104 (talk) 18:16, 19 August 2014 (UTC)

Shorts haven't worked out well in recent times, though we do our best to process them when they come along. As an output product, I can see they have some merit. I think perhaps they sometimes get assigned as coursework. There are some practical difficulties though. Maybe there's a way to make them work better logistically, but atm I don't see what that would be.
  • It's not clear to me that the amount of labor to write one is all that much less than to write minimal articles about each of the stories. It certainly doesn't strike me as requiring less Wikinews-writing skill. Each of the stories requires (under the modern review regimen) two mutually independent sources anyway, so there should be enough material there for a minimal article on each.
  • The amount of review labor is high, as the reviewer has to look at twice as many sources as there are items, and grok each story in order to review it. It wouldn't be that much more difficult to review separate minimal articles on each story.
  • If, during review, one of the items isn't ready, what should the reviewer do? Not-ready'ing the whole batch could be quite nasty. Deleting one and publishing the rest (assuming there were enough in the batch for the remainder to be viable) would make it pretty awkward to fix the one that was deleted, since honestly our review system is pretty clumsy about handling major changes post-publish. Besides which, although we have have template {{breaking}} to mark an article where we believe significant changes might occur during the 24-hour window post-publish, that only works if it's on the article from the moment of publication; it doesn't apply to a shorts article having more items added post-publish; and we generally disallow post-publish additions to an article that change its focus, which is sort-of what would happen if one added an item to a shorts article post-publish.
As I say, maybe there's a way to make the logistics of shorts work better, but I'm not seeing it. We do sometimes come up with innovations to make something work better; for example, with audio news briefs, which Crtew (a journalism professor at University of Southern Indiana) has revived in recent times, audio summaries of recent articles, we had the problem that once you record the audio, what's a reviewer to do except accept or reject? So we've developed a (so far, undocumented and technically unsupported) two-tier review process, where a script is submitted for pre-review, a reviewer looks it over and makes copyedits as needed, and then they record it and a reviewer listens to it to make sure nothing horrible went wrong. (Maybe once I sent back an audio for something that had gone wrong that I felt needed to be fixed before publication, but the two-tier process works pretty well.) --Pi zero (talk) 19:17, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the reply. From the writers point of view, I was thinking if 3 or 4 (or more) quite major, from there point of view, stories came along at once, it would be difficult to write them all up, but I can see why it would be difficult for the reviewer. As a suggestion, would there be some way to perhaps use the collaboration page to approve each one individually, before it is added to the main article? Also, perhaps extending the period from 1 to 2 days might give the individual stories time to be developed. Just my thoughts as a comparative beginner on this wiki, would be interested to here what those more experienced think. CSJJ104 (talk) 20:45, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
PS: Also thinking that it could be a good place to post updates to other stories, e.g. a current story involves a Texas Governor, if he does resign it may not be an article on its own, but a couple of lines along with the conclusions of other stories with links back to the main story could be useful/informative. CSJJ104 (talk) 20:58, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
Well, in regards to the last point, if there's a new development updating an existing story, you'd already need it to be newsworthy and have two sources, and then you can get a standalone article for not much more than the price of one shorts item — by listing the previous Wikinews articles in Related news (assuming they're since about 2009 or 2010, so they'd been peer reviewed) and just flat-out copying passages, sentences, even paragraphs from the previous Wikinews articles to fill out most of the lower part of the inverted pyramid. Professional news orgs, I'm told (and have somewhat observed) do this sort of thing all the time, creating a series of articles on an ongoing story where each one copies a lot of material from earlier ones. Someone was saying, iirc, a professional reporter might produce one major article per week, but build up material for it incrementally in lesser articles over the course of the week. --Pi zero (talk)
I agree with Pi zero except on one point: it isn't "that much more difficult to review separate minimal articles on each story", it's quite a bit easier. There is a good reason for this: I simply won't review certain types of articles. I think everyone is the same way. Why? Because I just know nothing about some subjects. I won't review one of Rockerballer's articles on Australian Football because I simply know nothing about Australian Football. I just... can't do it. So if you wrote a shorts article with four 2 paragraph articles in it, and one of them was about Australian Football, I'd just pass on by to the next article and review that one instead. Not out of malice, but just because I wouldn't know where to even begin checking the accuracy of a subject I'm utterly clueless about. I seem to recall reviewing one of Rockerballer's articles on one of those (from my distant and completely lost point of view) obscure sports teams once, and what should have taken me 20 minutes took me many hours, most of it background research.
Going back to the scenario I mentioned, if, on the other hand, four separate articles had been written, all of them with a short concluding 3rd paragraph, I might well review three of the four (taking 15 minutes each for minimalist two source articles), while leaving the fourth for someone better equipped to handle it. Maybe even Rockerballer himself if it was a sports article that you'd written, since he'd probably know the difference between a puck and a volleyball, unlike me:).
Another couple points: from the reader's perspective, only some of the articles in a short are likely to be attractive reading material, leading to less interest in such articles. And from the perspective of our poor, underworked front page, higher article count is better. I'd rather have four minimalist articles posted to the front page than the same four articles all lumped together, and only taking up one of the five lead article slots. — Gopher65talk 04:37, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
I concur with nearly everything Gopher states, except the business about knowing nothing/something. To review here, I really don't have to (nor do I) know much about Quantum Physics......but as a reviewer/editor, I'm looking for whether someone is/isn't "following the rules" of good print reporting (e.g. style, tone, voice, solid writing mechanics etc.) Of course, it's nice to have editor(s) working on articles within their respective fields of endeavor. But I can ready/not ready a hundred articles next week on the topic of Australian Football so long as I keep my decision focused on the "letter" and not "the spirit". It's not an accident that Rock radio stations hire people who mostly like Country music! Most importantly though, the matter of shorts has also been on my mind too. I love our high standards here, but WE WORK FOR FREE and ask potential other contributors to do the same. Print has always been low man on the totem pole and always will be......BUT, I think if we could generate a list of HIGHLY CREDIBLE sources and accept those within the parameters of single-source articles, it'd be nice to have shorts that ran 3-4 sentence....I love the idea of just "expanded" headlines. This way, we could get newbies to come in as cubs and work their way up to longer articles, but they'd get loads of tiny reinforcers along the way. --Bddpaux (talk) 15:48, 17 September 2014 (UTC)