Wikinews has evolved into an entity striving towards a few very different goals over the years:

 - be a repository for open-content articles about current events, written in a newsfeed style
 - serve as a collaborative site for emerging events of global importance
 - support original reporting efforts ("citizen journalism" by most people's definition)

Sometimes, Wikinews really shines. For example, Wikinews has proven its ability to handle very tough situations (earthquakes, bombings, etc) while maintaining coherent articles and showing development over time. Some of the articles are truly great testaments to the benefit of a wiki system. We've also had a number of really, really wonderful local reporting -- on par with any regional newspaper.

However, from the big-picture perspective, Wikinews cannot reach its goals very well.

 - The "open content" nature of our articles has gotten appreciated, but hasn't really caught on. Given that each article that just synthesizes existing news from other sources takes about 2 hours of work to develop, the time investment doesn't really pay off since very few other sites (and none of importance) pick up our news stories. The open CC-BY license is great, and definitely will be appreciated 50 years from now when everyone charges for their archives, but so far it's not a big draw for consumers of our content. Compare this with Wikipedia, where the openness of the content allowed it to be integrated into a lot of popular sites.

 - Globally-important emergencies thankfully do not happen very often, which unfortunately means that Wikinews rarely gets a chance to shine. There's definitely collaboration on other articles -- I think that I had a statistic from a few years ago that Wikinews articles receive 18 edits on average over their lifetime -- but these are not cases of mass collaboration but rather a small community enforcing certain standards of content and style.

 - Despite some great successes and truly wonderful reporting, we have not been able to move past the contributions of some very dedicated and capable individuals in creating a sustainable Original Reporting operation. The main problems here are the global scope of Wikinews, the lack of a sizable active user base, and the Wikimedia mandate. In more detail:

   * Global scope: Since Wikinews is global, we tend to have some very disjointed "teams" of contributors. There's a handful of active people from the UK, some from Australia, some from NZ, and a large number from cities in the US / Canada. At certain times there have been contributors from India and other English-speaking countries. However, in each case, the number of active Wikinewsies in a geographical area is counted on one hand. These people, more often than not, are interested in working on articles with a global scope rather than of local interest. Even if one contributor really excels and creates great Original Reporting, when they invariably burn out their city or country becomes no longer represented. At the global scope, however, there's rarely motivation or capacity for users to do truly great original reporting: the news and the newsmakers are too far away to be interviewed.

   * Lack of a sizable active user base: The site has settled into a predictable pattern, where less than a hundred active users tend to maintain most of the copywriting, editing, and janitorial duties. Readers, on the other hand, rarely get turned from casual-reader to active-contributor. While not unique to Wikinews, this problem for us turns into a shortage of workable news stories. A large number of casual-contributors would have allowed us to have a lot of short news stories: starting a story and getting it to the 90% mark is the bulk of the work, and tends to be done by the initial author in a lot of cases. The fewer people that are around to spend that one to two hours starting a story, the fewer actual stories we can publish.

   * Wikimedia mandate: the NPOV, notability, and newsfeed-style approaches limit Wikinews to a great degree. While these are the very things that I personally find so compelling about Wikinews, they undoubtely restrict our ability to operate to the detriment of the site's popularity and attractiveness. There's a great deal of people who start one-line stories dealing with some local event; usually it's written poorly and does not match our style, or is very opinionated, or is just plain untenable for a site with any sort of a global focus. By not having a policy infrastructure of effectively dealing with these short starts, we not only throw out some story ideas (that maybe aren't great) but we also scare away contributors who wrote these short starts (who maybe would have been happy enough to see their contributions published to stay and develop into better contributors).

In all, I don't see how these trends will change unless we radically alter the Wikinews parameters of operation. My belief is that the only method that could yield long-term success would be to transition to having a "news" tab for Wikipedia articles -- and use some of the know-how in operating Wikinews as a method of developing policies on WP. This is clearly a big deal, and would effectively kill Wikinews -- however, I think that the current situation is not very sustainable.

There are other options too -- over the years there've been discussions of spinning off Wikinews, or getting funded for some WN-specific software development, etc. If there are good ideas that were left in a dustbin before, maybe it's worth dusting them off now.

-ilya haykinson

On Tue, May 26, 2009 at 4:23 PM, Brion Vibber <> wrote:
El 5/26/09 4:28 AM, Fred Bauder escribió:
> Wikipedia needs to do what is good for Wikipedia, and some news coverage
> is good for Wikipedia. Detailed original reporting is outside Wikipedia's
> mission, as is a sophisticated presentation of the significance of news.
> As things happen, information about them is added to the corpus of human
> knowledge and thus added to Wikipedia.

Wikinews does relatively little to really support firsthand reporting
either. I'll admit I'm not a hardcore Wikinewsie, but what I've seen
over the last years has generally been either:

* Original interviews
* Re-reporting of news stories in other media

Look at today's top stories:

All four are just rehashes of information found at other news sites --
the sources are all media news outlets: CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, Reuters, etc.

There is an original reporting section:

but the stories are relatively rare, and even many of those seem to be
basically "a public event happened, here's a description" or "a press
conference happened, here's some info".

Wikinews lacks a local angle (there's no locality) or a unifying
political angle (we're supposed to be neutral), either of which could
make it much easier to organize original reporting. Compare with say
Indynews, which has a strong political angle and has been much more
active about providing infrastructure. Editorial quality sometimes
suffers, but I at least feel like they've got a mission...

-- brion

Wikinews-l mailing list