Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Wikipedia Gives Journalism a Go, But Newsroom Media Have Little to Worry About

WASHINGTON, D.C. Nov. 14 (DPI) – Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales this week announced the creation of a news service called WikiTribune, and the early returns suggest that journalism by volunteer contributors won’t pose a huge threat to producers of traditional journalism.

Why? Because Wiki-type volunteers are not – even today – the basis for a sustainable business model.

Yes, “traditional journalism” has serious problems: It’s still in the throes of its painful transition to digital, after its calamitous two-decade decline in print advertising.  Resources are thin. Digital subscriptions and digital advertising are only slowly becoming the source for a reliable business model.

And editorial partisanship, which has always defined any publication, is getting worse: The news business’s biggest news franchises – The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, even CBS News – more and more champion their respective biases in these darkly partisan times.

Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, is trying to launch WikiTribune as a kind of answer to those problems, counting on both user donations and volunteer contributors to serve as the basis for a new approach to news coverage.  It is reaching in all directions, even to professional journalism organizations, hoping to lure talent.

It’s true that the digital age is making for new behaviors and new habits and new approaches to all kinds of old businesses. But the news business still depends of the same thing it relied on a generation ago: Very literate, very knowledgeable, and very committed people. They are people who have to be paid, in part so that they don’t resort to using their work to promote other ambitions.

That’s an age-old problem in journalism: Emotional, rather than disinterested, reporters who use their news columns to promote their own interests and biases, rather than simply report the news.

Right now the WikiTribune features articles with bland headlines that suggest little command of their subject, beyond what they’ve found on genuine news sites.  And unpaid contributors, at some point, will begin to find ways to compensate themselves by inserting their biases into the news column.

Want better journalism? Pay for it the old-fashioned way – subscribe to it. In fact, go subscribe to multiple existing news outlets with disparate viewpoints.  That’s a start for informing an independent citizenry.


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