[WikiEN-l] Signpost and basic journalistic integrity

Tony Souter tony1 at iinet.net.au
Tue Nov 5 07:42:03 UTC 2013

Nathan, it's a pity you've decided to smear me on a public list without even informing me. I was alerted to this by an existing subscriber and have since subscribed myself so that I can respond.

Almost every sentence you've written needs rebutting. 

First, "takedown" and "aggressive" are your characterisations. The entire story is factual but for four sentences. Here are the possibly subjective ones: 

*"It is an open question whether these warnings actually function to caution travellers' behaviour beyond providing eligibility for inclusion under the policies." 

*"Another issue raised by the material is its potential to be perceived as treating women with a casual objectification".

*"And just as central to the site's use of the Wikimedia Foundation's trademark and brand reputation is its ability to monitor commercial spamming."

*"Yet given the poverty of the competition, there appear to be many opportunities for Wikivoyage to boost its presence in the crowded market for online travel advice."  

Second, "e-mailed quotes were manipulated and pulled out of context". No, the source was emailed the link to the draft more than 12 hours ahead of publication, by agreement. There was no distortion of the message in my copy-edits and conflation; we don't have boundless room, and sources are warned that their text may be trimmed or rationalised, usually with their review before publication (sources often send bloated response to queries). So please get your facts right.

Third, I don't regard Ryan Holliday's trigger-happy blocks (issued to silence anyone who criticises or suggests reforms to the site = "uncivil") as placing me in an ethically difficult position. Please note that the story is a direct continuation of my coverage of the sex-tourism policy back in January – one that was planned at the time, given that the site had only just migrated. It is the fourth in a sequence of stories I have written for the Signpost about Wikivoyage over 15 months. Perhaps Holliday might have considered that I have a history of covering Wikivoyage in the public interest before meeting out another of his gratuitous punishment blocks; but this story was going to happen anyway. Any potential perception of COI was, in fact, why I went to considerable trouble to keep the article almost entirely factual. 

I'm sorry that you've joined in the bullying, Nathan: I thought better of you than to indulge in misleading statements. The purpose of the bullying is to deflect people from discussing the substance of the article. After calling me "a jerk" and "a dick" multiple times, the Wikivoyage boys seem to have decided not to engage in discussion for evolving the site. You are helping them in their intransigence.


From: Nathan <nawrich at gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Nov 4, 2013 at 7:17 PM
Subject: [WikiEN-l] Signpost and basic journalistic integrity
To: English Wikipedia <wikien-l at lists.wikimedia.org>

There's a heated debate in the comment section of the Signpost's latest
"News and notes". Tony1 wrote a takedown of the English Wikivoyage in
pretty inflammatory language, but as a news story rather than as part of
the Signpost's foray into opinion.

Not surprisingly, the Wikivoyage folks have made various serious claims
about the article - that e-mailed quotes were manipulated and pulled out of
context, that content from Wikivoyage was presented in a false light, that
the column was illustrated with images that have never actually appeared on
Wikivoyage and that Tony1 himself has a very strong bias against Wikivoyage.

It's the last bit that is the most serious to me. A month ago, a discussion
to ban Tony1 from Wikivoyage (which ultimately resulted in his ban) was
proposed. Tony1's response:

"*Right, you'll never see me again. (Oh, you'll see me, but it won't be
on this site.) It is morally reprehensible, and demonstrates a clear
strategy to get rid of critical voices—anyone who dares to stand up to the
boys' club here. From now on, I'll be deeply committed to letting
Wikimedians know what a corrupt and bullying power structure has developed
here. This is so dysfunctional it is laughable."*

This is a major departure from the traditional tone and approach of the
Signpost and it's editors, and it's kind of sad. Whatever you think of the
article debate itself (and there is more than one way to look at it), the
fact that the piece was published that way - in the voice of the Signpost,
without reference to Tony1's history, etc. - is a disappointing ethical
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