Everyone’s favorite online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, wants to join the fight against fake news with the launch of a news site, WikiTribune. The idea of WikiTribune as shared by the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, is a very intriguing one but a lot of questions start to arise the closer we look.
Jimmy Wales explained the new project on a new website that was set up to crowdsource funds for the hire of 10 full-time journalists. These journalists will be the ones to report the news on the WikiTribune but a wider world of editors in the form of internet volunteers is what sets the proposed news site apart from other traditional media outlets.
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The demo version of the website was made accessible to a select audience including media outlets and the Atlantic cites the quote below from there;
“In most news sites, the community tends to hang at the bottom of articles in comments that serve little purpose,”
In the model being proposed for the WikiTribune that format is differentiated by “professional journalists and community members working side by side as equals, and supported not primarily by advertisers, but by readers who care about good journalism enough to become monthly supporters.”
Jimmy Wales who says that he was motivated to address this fake news problem when he heard the phrase “alternative facts” being used on television by Kellyanne Conway, also had this to say on that note;
“This will be the first time that professional journalists and citizen journalists will work side-by-side as equals writing stories as they happen, editing them live as they develop and at all times backed by a community checking and rechecking all facts”
The model being proposed is similar to the structure on which Wikipedia was built and seeing that Wikipedia has sometimes suffered from problems of inaccuracy and fears of corporate interest driving the framing of information, it is hard to see how WikiTribune will rise above it all.
WikiTribune is still at the crowdfunding stage
Still, all this worry is a bit premature. WikiTribune is still at the crowdfunding stage and the entire operation is expected to be funded by donors. That would mean that the people will determine its eventual launch and success.
Even worries about how 10 journalists will achieve the broad goal of reporting global news in real time while also fact checking and stamping edits can be relaxed a little by the knowledge that the more funds they raise, the more journalists they can employ.
Supporters are being asked to pay £10 or $15 per month. Access to the news will, however, be free for all. It has also been stated that having no shareholders, advertisers or subscribers will reduce commercial pressures and that paying members will be able to suggest topics.
The paid journalists will be required to provide the source of a fact or provide full transcripts and recordings of interviews. The general public will be allowed to modify and update articles but the update will only go live once approved by staff or trusted volunteers.
Basically, WikiTribune is the Wikipedia for news which is odd considering there is already an established news site called Wikinews which could simply be updated to fit this new ethos.