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What’s Wrong with Wikitribune? The Press Knows.

Collected and edited by Zoloft

Jimmy Wales

Jimmy Wales
Image: Wikimedia Commons Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic


Jimmy Wales has an idea, a budget and says he’ll change the world again…

Wikitribune,  ‘Evidence-based journalism’ — the cure to ‘fake news!’ An end to media bias and tainted journalism.

Wikitribune is a news platform that brings journalists and a community of volunteers together. We want to make sure that you read fact-based articles that have a real impact in both local and global events. And that stories can be easily verified and improved. — Jimmy Wales

We might very well believe him, despite our past differences, but unsurprisingly, the Fourth Estate has a few doubts:

The Problem With WikiTribune — The Atlantic — Adrienne LaFrance 25 April 2017

“The larger problem with WikiTribune is this: Someone who is paid for doing journalistic work cannot be considered “equals” with someone who is unpaid. And promoting the idea that core journalistic work should be done for free, by volunteers, is harmful to professional journalism. The difference between a professional and a hobbyist isn’t always measurable in skill level, but it is quantifiable in time and other resources necessary to complete a job.”

This is an ethical and professional concern, apparently.

Did Wikipedia’s Founder Just ‘Invent’ The Newspaper As A Fake News Cure? — MediaPost — Sean Hargrave 25 April 2017

“Did Jimmy Wales just “invent” the newspaper? …
Can you imagine a world in which professional journalists check facts, have editors to hold them to account and are paid a wage through the articles being supported by either advertising or subscriptions, preferably both? I think you can because it’s what we already have.”

Jimmy Wales reinvents the news desk.

Can Wikitribune combat fake news? — Al Jazeera — Dr. Zahera Harb 2 MAY 2017

“A model in which “anyone can flag or fix an article and submit it for review” might not be the best way to tackle fake news or to tackle inaccurate news stories, considering that those 10 journalists might be over swamped with work and they might not have the time to do a proper review.

In this system, we will encounter mistakes similar to those we have been seeing in Wikipedia. Those mistakes tend to cause the same harm as fake news. Mistakes in Wikipedia, in the end, are mere lies listed as facts.”

Dr. Harb is also worried about inequalities between journalists and ‘volunteers’ in pay and skills and training.

Hate the News? Wikipedia’s Co-Founder Wants You to Edit It — Wired — Emily Dreyfuss 28 April 2017

“…those outside contributions also pose the greatest risk for conflicts of interest. Journalists don’t let sources write or edit their stories. You don’t show a source a story before you publish it, and you don’t let a source dictate changes to a story afterword, beyond correcting true factual errors. Otherwise, you’re just doing PR. Wikitribune will be walking a very fine line between giving readers more power and giving sources and subjects direct access to shape stories to suit their interests.”

News you can pay for? Sounds familiar.

The Good And Bad In WikiTribune, Wikipedia Founder’s Open-Source News Site — Yahoo! Finance — Shanthi Rexaline (Benzinga) 21 May 2017

“News would tend to be the mere recitation of facts, with attributions to support the facts, if it takes the route of being merely fact-focused. This is unlikely to help readers in a big way. … Making editorial judgment brings in an element of bias, which defeats the very purpose of which the news site is being launched.”

Ask your doctor if Wikitribune is right for you.

Wikitribune: can crowd-sourced journalism solve the crisis of trust in news? — London School of Economics — Professor Charlie Beckett 25 April 2017

“But there are already hundreds of independent and media-owned fact checking websites. There are hundreds of good newsrooms across the political spectrum churning out quality reportage and analysis. The problem is not one of production, it’s of discoverability, prominence on platforms such as Facebook, and the human desire for partisan narratives that please our prejudices.

Wales says that his site will be ‘neutral’. But there’s no such thing.”

“What makes a good man go neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?” –Zapp Brannigan

Why the Odds Are Stacked Against the Jimmy Wales Journalism Project — Fortune — Mathew Ingram 25 April 2017

“Skeptics of Wales’ plan note that a number of entrepreneurs and journalists have launched sites and services based on a similar crowd-powered approach to the news over the past several years.”

[The article cites the decaying corpses of Spot.us, Beacon Reader, Contributoria, and Grasswire. –ed.]

“Part of the problem is that while journalists—and concerned observers like Wales—see the rise of “fake news” as a serious social problem, and are committed to helping find ways to combat it, it’s not clear that non-journalists feel the same kind of impulse. Nor is it clear that even if they do, enough of them will be willing to fund or get involved with such a project.”

Well, it’s not like Fortune knows anything about business failures.

WikiTribune Will Sink — newslines.org — Mark Devlin 2 May 2017

“In Zero to One, Peter Thiel says that startups should seek a monopoly in a small market and use that to expand. Yet Wales thinks he can compete with well funded existing high-quality news brands in a small market? That’s not a winning proposition.”

Devlin is the founder of Newslines.org, and will be in competition with Jimmy Wales from day one. Newslines is already established, has a massive database of articles, and has a plan and direction. Devlin attacks Wikitribune from many angles. His article is a good read.

Wikitribune is a Start but It Misses the Core Issue on Fake News — MidiaResearch — Zach Fuller 27 April 2017

“WikiTribune will be a useful proposition to users already engaged in the fight against ‘fake news’, but appears to offer little in how it can reach those who remain unaware of the problem. Whilst it is important that people in the position of Jimmy Wales are looking at the issue, creating a fact-checking website only addresses part of the process of how fraudulent information diffuses across social media.”

This review opines that Jimmy Wales is solving the wrong problem.

Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales is accused of hypocrisy over new website he says will tackle ‘fake news’ — Daily Mail – Ian Drury – 26 April 2017

“Despite claims that his online encyclopedia is riddled with inaccuracies, the internet entrepreneur said his new Wikitribune site would produce ‘fact- checked, global news stories.’ …
Donors will have a say in which subjects and story threads the site focuses on. Mr. Wales, who has ties to both Labour and the Remain campaign and sits on the board of the Left-wing Guardian newspaper, insisted it will be politically-neutral.”

The Daily Mail is still angry at all things Wikipedia (a little over a month ago it was designated as ‘not a reliable source’ for Wikipedia articles). 🙂

Here’s Why WikiTRIBUNE Won’t Be ‘Fixing The News’ Anytime Soon — LinkedIn — Chris C. Anderson 25 April 2017

“Journalists and the community are most definitely not equals. While Journalists and Reddit moderators are both human and capable of bias and making mistakes, you’ve still got a better shot at accuracy with a journalist. There’s a reason why you never see a source in a news article pointing to Wikipedia. It isn’t considered a reliable news source because it is crowdsourced information.”

I see a trend here. Wikipedia’s reputation of taking the truth for a stroll down a dark alley is tainting the new organization’s credibility before they even have a chance to win people over. That reputation is tied to Jimmy Wales too.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this bouquet of toadstools, and to point out the obvious, many (not all) of these articles and reviews had nice things to say about the Wikitribune idea as well. But looking at the criticism from many sources, Jimmy Wales may be either be going where many have failed before, be trying to reinvent the newspaper, or trying to solve the wrong problem. Bon Voyage, Jimmy! Watch out for icebergs!

2 comments to What’s Wrong with Wikitribune? The Press Knows.

  • EVERYBODY misses the point. This is all about creating a personal money-making opportunity for Jimmy Wales. Period. He is the 100% stockholder in this enterprise, he has experience shaking the bushes for small donors from Wikipedia, experience shaking down news readers for financial support from The Guardian, experience selling advertising and cashing in on web visitors from Wikia, and experience cashing checks from his UK Socially Useful Phone Company enterprise.

    This is, plain and simple, a money-making venture from an internet venture capitalist — one has ponied up a big 100 quid to capitalize the company before soliciting donations from people who think he actually has jack to do with Wikipedia.

    The fact that this project is doomed to fail is largely irrelevant, so long as a big enough revenue stream from gullible donors is generated during a protracted failure process… Icky, icky, icky…

  • thekohser2

    A bold visitor to Jimbo’s talk emporium dared to post a link to this blog! https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User_talk:Jimbo_Wales&diff=785991927&oldid=785581115 How long before Jimbo finally returns to his Talk page to ask Mr. Macon never to grace it again?