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Wikinews

Wikinews is an open source news site run by the same people who gave the world Wikipedia, Wikibooks, and other online open source projects. It can be accessed at http://www.wikinews.org. Whereas Wikipedia is designed to act as an open source encyclopaedia that features fact-based, academic-style entries, Wikinews is an open source news site that allows users to submit news stories and edit those which already exist as new developments occur or should the existing version contain any errors.

The system was designed as an alternative to other news aggregators (including but not limited to Google and Yahoo News); as readers read different news stories about the same event, they can combine details and facts into one article on Wikinews for the sake of convenience. The management says this helps to keep stories neutral and free from bias. Since its inception in 2004, the project has been garnering attention from media outlets and through word-of-mouth (so to speak) publicity on the internet. Wikinews also advertises itself as a way for “citizen journalists” to bring potential worldwide attention to issues they feel are not being covered accurately or sufficiently by other areas of the press. In order to decrease the possibility of “false” news, the site’s management requests that users take detailed notes when conducting research and keeping them available for verification purposes.

History and Process

Wikinews was first launched as a demonstrative product in November, 2004. It was met with such enthusiasm that it was moved from the demonstrative to the beta stage one month later. While the earliest version was in English, Wikinews has grown to offer information in a total of 12 languages (Dutch, French, Spanish, Swedish, Bulgarian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, and Ukrainian. It now offers users the option of petitioning for the inclusion of other language sections; the site’s main page explains that requests will be granted if users are submitting news articles in that language as well.

The site itself is similar in appearance and upkeep to that of Wikipedia. The creation/editing process is, in effect, identical to the encyclopaedia’s, particularly in that it requires any and all modifications to be made using Wiki markup. Articles are usually written in the hard news, inverted pyramid style, however some (such as lengthy obituaries) consist of the news article followed by information in a more encyclopaedia-like format.

One of the more interesting aspects of Wikinews is the form of convergence that occurs between it and the other Wiki projects. While convergence (that is, the “crossover” of material and intertwining of resources) is certainly a part of Wikipedia (which often links to Wikiquotes, among other projects), users have the option of linking to Wikipedia articles within Wikinews stories. This is done in the same way one would link to another encyclopaedia article within Wikipedia, even though the sites are technically independent of each other. Wikinews also has its own RSS stream, which enables users and readers to check out the latest submissions without necessarily visiting the site.

Community

Like its sister sites, Wikinews encourages the submission of “neutral” material. There are discussion boards for each news story on which users can post concerns about and addendums to each article. These are quickly becoming a place in which the very issues themselves are debated, as opposed to discussion of journalistic style and/or the issue of bias within specific articles. Users can formally dispute the neutrality of articles, or, if they prefer, certain elements of an article. Like Wikipedia, heavy dispute results in a disclaimer being placed on an article.

The site’s “Water Cooler” is a section in which users can discuss the technical aspects of the project, including its policy and hardware issues. One of the biggest issues discussed over the past few months is the accreditation of reporters. It has been suggested that users provide the site with their credentials so that, should the need arise, Wikinews could supply its content (which is entirely in the public domain) to other news sources. The project also offers a crossword puzzle using elements of recent news stories, and has its own IRC channel (#wikinews on Freenode). More than 2000 users have signed up for accounts with Wikinews.

Organization

The site divides news articles by subject and by region. Some of the more original subjects include “Disasters and Accidents” and “Wackynews,” a collection of news oddities from around the world. Some users have lobbied to have the name of the latter changed, as they consider the obvious wordplay on “Wikinews” to be tacky and “unprofessional.” Certain stories are designated as top stories and are given precedence on the main page. For instance, today (April 3, 2005)’s top stories include the death of Pope John Paul II and the impending conclave that will determine his successor.

As is currently the case with Wikipedia, the majority of Wikinews articles are written in English. There are many articles in other languages, and these are not merely translations of the English articles. Other language versions, including the French Wikinews, clearly state that the site is still in the beta phase and that more development will occur as time passes.

The future

Wikinews is, as aforementioned, yet another stage in the so-called open source revolution. Its increasing popularity has caused many (especially those in the journalism industry) to question the relevance of a formal journalistic education and has raised just as many questions about the future of online journalism, blogging, and so forth.

As Wikinews grows, it will be interesting to see if and how it changes journalism and whether or not it will have any real impact on the craft as we know it. In a time when many online news outlets have begun to charge users for online access to content, Wikinews offers user-written and edited news for free (save for the cost of an internet connection). The question of authenticity and neutrality will continue to exist, but as attitudes towards internet-based information change, more information might be accessed more often from sites like Wikinews.

Resource:
Wikinews http://www.wikinews.org
Wikinews - Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikinews

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