The New York Times, whose login-to-read model drives me to distraction, posted a thought-provoking article by Aaron Weiss, a member of the Unassociated Press, about WikiNews on February 10, 2005. (Also see the latest WikiNews headlines.) A few excerpts and some commentary below:
“Wikinews (www.wikinews.org) is an experiment in collaborative news gathering and reporting.” Experiment? Like blogging or like the New York Times?
“For Wikinews proponents, the evolution of content is one of the system’s strengths, and one of its challenges. The larger and more mature Wikipedia project is often cited by Wiki users as an example of how consensus can evolve into truth. But Wikinews articles do not enjoy the same luxury of time.” Strengths are challenges…hm…are challenges opportunites? If so, what are those opportunites? What does WikiNews have to gain, marketshare?
“The system’s primary check is its transparency. Inspired, in part, by the success of open source software development, the writing process is completely public.” What else was it inspired by? Inquiring minds wanna know…
“Will a need for speed affect the incentive for volunteers to contribute? This is a concern of Erik Möller, a technology journalist in Berlin who drafted the original Wikinews project proposal. “Wikinews articles are short-lived, so there is a reduced feeling of contributing to a knowledge base that will last a lifetime,” he said.” By extension, NYTimes articles must be “short-lived” too. If so, why don’t they just give everyone the right to access and reproduce articles from their archives for free?
“Mr. McHenry was skeptical about Wikinews’s ability to provide a neutral point of view and its claim to be evenhanded. “The naïveté is stunning,” he said.” Ah, this must be the line that caught the eye of an editor in the NYTimes Technology newsroom. They even called this out as a separate paragraph. Nay editor, your naïveté is stunning.
“Ultimately, these contributors and others like them will define whatever it is that Wikinews will become, which is exactly the way Mr. Wales wants it to be.” What a choice ending. Just sterling. Hah.
Sermon: I work for a large, successful software company that sells stuff. We compete against other companies and amorphous entities that give stuff away…for free! Writers and editors at the large successful media keiretsu like the New York Times work for companies that sell stuff. In the future, they will compete against…
If you are a journalist or editor, I have the greatest respect and admiration for your profession. But consider me an early warning siren. The rise of open source news coverage will never deny you gainful and fulfilling employment but it will change the way you work in dramatic, unforeseeable, and generally healthy ways. The sooner you figure out how and why people are willing to do what you do for what appears to be absolutely no pay and to tap into that incredible energy, the better off you and your readers will be.