Filed under: %a la mod
Just yesterday, Rebecca made a few good suggestions about how a prospective Wikinews project could proceed without annoying any traditional journalists or alienating their audiences. The idea of tackling new topics for investigative journalism is a particularly interesting one. I think, however, that most original journalism will start out addressing local news that traditional media haven’t deigned to pick up (and this may have a broader audience than traditionally expected… but then when’s the last time that any journalist, traditional or not, asked you what you wanted to read?).
But when she talks in terms of choosing angles on stories, she misses one of the strengths of this particular wiki tradition. What wikinews should be able to do better than any other news source, is mention and contextualize all of the major angles on a story (including, perhaps, a novel angle not covered by other media); expose the aspects of a news report that are hotly contested among its various authors; and expose the revision process involved in newsmaking.
She gets in a dig about Middle-earth having better coverage in the encyclopedia than most of Africa, referring to Ethan Z‘s comment last month that the article on the Congo Civil War was shorter than that on Tolkien’s Middle-earth. I feel bad that the source of these claims is right here in my backyard, so let me try to set matters right. The initial distribution of content on Wikipedia was spotty, influenced by the interests of the initial contributors. When you have a blank canvas, you have to pick somewhere to start. Since then, the shared goal of a neutral, comprehensive encyclopedia has guided how coverage has broadened.
Many contributors to Wikipedia are not contributing in their area of expertise, but instead researching new things as they contribute articles where the encyclopedia needs them most (see for instance the recent new-article contest focusing on filling article requests).
Yes, Wikipedia has fantastic, perhaps unequalled coverage of Middle-earth — currently there are almost 900 related articles, half of which are short descriptions of the hundreds of characters and places that compose that most detailed of fantasy worlds. And yes, Wikipedia’s coverage of Africa pales in comparison to its coverage of other continents.
Nevertheless, there are 3000 articles directly related to Africa, including, for instance, Economy of Africa and Congo Free State. There are no articles of such depth or quality about hobbits and elves — despite Tolkien’s talent, he could hardly compete with the exotic detail of real life.
[If you're curious about the numbers, I just spent half an hour reviewing these topics via the beta categorization system.]
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