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Friday, September 09, 2005

How Wikipedia's rising recognition may affect newspapers

The popular Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, easily holds the distinction of top reference site on the Web with double the traffic of Dictionary.com. In fact, it is so popular that its growth rate, 154% last year according to Reuters, means that it could soon surpass the New York Times and other news sites in terms of page hits. This statistic could have some interesting consequences for the future of newspapers.

The essence of a Wiki is that it is an organic webpage that anyone can edit which results in a 'neutral point of view' article. When "Wikipedians," as contributors are dubbed, post their paragraphs, the information must come from a legitimate source; no original material or personal opinion is allowed. But as recognition of the site grows, Wikipedia is increasingly referenced for breaking news, not just general background information, even more than its own news offshoot, WikiNews. Articles are often posted immediately, as an event unfolds, as opposed to a traditional encyclopedia whose articles are purely retrospect. For instance, in April, Wikipedia had the same percentage of people browsing for info on Pope Benedict as did CNN.com. The difference with Wikipedia is as time passes, more people contribute to an entry that was once breaking news, adding new information and deleting or clarifying that which was disproved, producing well-rounded encyclopedic entries. But much of what is posted is simply a mix of regurgitated content from various newspapers joined together into one article. In this respect, the existence of newspapers nor their journalism are not at all threatened by Wikipedia. It's collaborative wealth of information as well as other online sources could, however, be used by newspapers for the benefit of the reader.

When writing a story, journalists could link to a Wikipedia entry or other reference to provide background information for the reader. Some newspapers such as the Economist, who have detailed explanations of situations in their own database, place links to this info next to their articles to give the reader a foundation for the article they are reading. But few actually link to other sources. Some New York Times columnists have begun linking to other newspapers, but this is more in reference to what other columnists say instead of background.

Adding such background links may be beneficial in holding younger readers attention. Think about a twelve year-old who is asked to do a report on a current events article and finds one concerning the Israeli/Palestinian conflict published in a major national paper. It may be the student's first encounter with the issue and thus, at first glance, the article will not make much sense to the student. But if their were links to background information integrated in the article, the young reader will not only be able to understand the gist of the story, but also may develop an interest in it and begin to follow it daily in the newspaper. This idea is also relevant for anyone who picks up the paper in the middle of a developing story. Online newspapers of the future may thus act as virtual information super-links aside from their role as purveyors of quality journalism.

Keeping this in mind, the future newsroom may have an additional employee: a 'link editor' (if the position ever takes hold I'll try to come up with a more original job title). The bearer of this responsibility would be charged with reading drafts of articles before they are published, adding any relevant links to names, places, events, etc., in the text. The journalist, as many of you may realize, does not have time to complete such a task. The link editor would work from a database and if ever they crossed an obscure reference, would search for background, link it with the article and place it in the database for future reference. It could work in reverse as well: journalists could consult the link editor for quick background on a story idea. Of course, similar functions have already been technologically automated such as a service that links words to a dictionary site, which is useful for improving ones vocabulary. But such a position in a newsroom could result in more informed, fulfilled and happier readers, indeed the type of reader that returns to read your newspaper the following day.

Source: Reuters

Posted by john burke on September 9, 2005 at 05:02 PM in a. Citizen journalism, b. Alliances and partnerships, m. Improving editorial quality, n. Online strategies, p. Newsroom management | Permalink

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Comments

Wikipedia is a good source, but...
Sometimes Wikipedia editors don't do good job. Sometimes they make wrong decigions, based on not deep research. Often they have not enough knowledge about subject they working with. As an example recently deleted article "Nadia Russ", which was fully resources. Lots of copies of articles in different newspapers shows nobility of living artist. Another article NeoPopRealism was deleted also as not supported. I cheked all references. Nadia Russ Fan Club http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nadiarussshowroom has all article-references copies in readable size, but editors played game that they don't know that. They state that webspawner website contain article about Nadia Russ, and it's bad reference, anything can be typed in that webspawner. Webspawner.com in that situation was used to help readers, making article located in nadiaruss.com more readable. Original photo-copy located in nadiaruss.com and in http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nadiarussshowroom.
In this case Wikipedia editors were prejudace or air-headed. Both don't improve wikipedia reputation. We need true sources, not made by left foot or not professional editors...

Posted by: Allan at Mar 19, 2007 9:35:04 PM

A 'link editor'? I have two suggestions:
- context editor
- NAI {Network Augmented Intelligence} editor

Machine Augmented Intelligence
http://nrg78.com/ipw-web/b2/index.php?p=30


Posted by: Dimitar Vesselinov at Sep 12, 2005 2:07:59 AM

It's always cheering to see something you've written used in a newspaper report; and journalists already use Wikipedia as a crib source a LOT.

When Tom Cruise was going through his spectacular public meltdown recently, almost every article on him talked about Xenu, the galactic ruler of Scientology mythology, and they'd clearly gotten it from the Wikipedia article on Xenu, because I could see sentences I'd written lifted directly ;-) Which is good, because we write this stuff to be read and used.

But yes, linking when using Wikipedia as a source would be very nice!

Posted by: David Gerard at Sep 10, 2005 1:59:14 PM