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Op-Ed: Can Wiki Tribune save journalism? Maybe it can.

Important: In an excellent article on, Wales explains his vision and his values very effectively. It’s a must-read. This is an op-ed, and I don’t want to risk any sort of distortion of what Wales has to say by adding any spin to the article’s very clear message.
The news is broken, according to Wales, and Wiki Tribune is the fix. He wants to use a team of professional journalists, in conjunction with the Wiki community, to deliver the news.
Wales, who has a very long track record in media, feels that the democratic values of news media have been effectively sabotaged by “publish anything” news. Historically, he grew up in a time when news was investigative, keeping people honest. The internet changed the model drastically, and also destroyed a lot of local news sites as their old business models couldn’t compete.
Another issue is the brief attention span and limited depth of modern “news”. The idea of collaborative news media, backed up by pro journalists and local sourcing, offers a lot of depth, and definitely a lot of sourcing options.
Wales is all in favor of citizen journalism, but points out that there are many things professional journalists can do that home-based citizen journalists can’t. He points out that crowd knowledge can add a lot.
Wales has a lot of faith in the Wiki community in particular, which he describes as “information obsessives”. He’s also a big believer in open source media, so the idea of Wiki Tribune is very much consistent with the highly successful Wikipedia model.
The media response to Wiki Tribune is also pretty interesting. Not everyone agrees.

Russian fake-news operations were able to reach millions of Americans in an effort to spread discord...

Russian fake-news operations were able to reach millions of Americans in an effort to spread discord across US society using the networks of Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Justin TALLIS, AFP/File

Conservative media like the Daily Mail don’t like it at all. Some professionals are calling it “solutionism”, yet another truly useless buzzword which turns out to mean “Create a new model, rather than try to solve the old model’s problems.” Consider that as a bit of language, and you can see why some people might like solutionism in journalism, line by line.
That current media interests, particularly old news sites like the Daily Mail, don’t like the idea of new competition, is hardly surprising. What’s surprising is that they’re not taking a very real alternative seriously. They didn’t take the internet seriously when it started, either, and look where that got them.
Is Wiki Tribune a bigger, better, idea than it looks?
Regressive theorists aside, Wales has hit some important points with this idea:
1. Browbeat journalism, like Breitbart, endless clickbait sites, and the inevitable ravers and ranters, is universally despised by people who want actual information. Just about ANY credible source would get good market traction in this insane environment of highly corrupt/ totally useless non-information.
2. Crowd sourcing works. When contributors put in time and effort, they can generate a lot of information, insights, and ideas. (Digital Journal is one of the original citizen journalism sites, by the way. We know how well it works.)
3. The risk of the fake news factories getting a monopoly on information is hardly a trivial issue. There MUST be alternative, reliable, sources of information to ensure real news is available to the public.
4. The Wiki Tribune idea is apparently geared to more intensive, prolonged, and investigative news, rather than the much-loathed “5 seconds of attention” approach of the tabloids. Any news source which follows up on any type of news, in fact, can only be better. This also means that a typical news media failing, pushing big news off the front pages for transient news, would be a thing of the past.
5. Contributors to Wiki Tribune are likely to be experts or people directly connected to the news. That’s a very different ball game to the usual biased reporting of many news sites and the traditional editorial Whack A Mole approach to ongoing news.

Researchers said US voters in the swing states in the 2016 election were disproportionately targeted...

Researchers said US voters in the swing states in the 2016 election were disproportionately targeted by Twitter “bots” and fake news

I don’t think Wales is being purely reactive, or naïve, with the Wiki Tribune idea. This looks far more constructive and progressive than idealistic. A more trustworthy, more intensive way of sourcing news can’t be a bad idea. Counteracting the hideous sewer of fake news and unchallenged garbage masquerading as news is a very good idea, by any standards.
The whole idea of news needs to be re-evaluated. The farcical information churned out by bots and belligerent buffoons cannot be called news or anything but fraudulent, in practice. It’s been a disaster for humanity so far, and it’s not getting any better in the senile, facile, farcical babblings of government-approved hogwash.
The journalistic ramifications
For journalism, anything which achieves a decent level of quality and factual rendition of the news can only be a godsend. Modern “journalism” is a bruised, confused, abused, contused, misused, (thanks Woody Guthrie) mess.
Professional ethics and quality standards don’t have a chance in this brothel of a now much-denigrated/ much ignored profession. Thanks to Hearst-like corporate cultures, journalism has been relegated to spectator status. Crap is content, by definition.
Not much is actually being delivered in democratic terms, or in the public interest, either. This self-serving vomit we see every day isn’t news. It’s an obscenity with no redeeming features at all. How accountable can anyone be to superficial coverage and no solid facts beyond what someone said?
You’re not going to get a Watergate out of a news sector which can barely keep up with the BS it’s deluged with every day. You won’t get Congress paying much attention to the possible risks of exposure, either, when it can call anything “fake news”.
Buzzfeed is a not-entirely-dissimilar model. Using pro journalists, Buzzfeed gets a lot of attention, and makes news itself, on a regular basis. Nobody’s calling Buzzfeed non-viable. A more news-based hybrid like Wiki Tribune may be a great option for journalists who want to do real news and get read.
“Blockchain journalism”?
Those who know Wikipedia will be well aware of the sometimes ferocious standards and commentary made by contributors. “Citations required”, it so happens, also applies to journalism, academic writing, and good basic publishing of all kinds. The Wiki community, if anything, is a bit over-qualified, some might say over-zealous sometimes, but it is a quality check no modern news media has. A blockchain includes a verification process, by definition, and this is how you verify news.
This “blockchain” approach is a good idea for any kind of journalism. Information must be supported. It must, in fact, be REAL news, not fiction.
I’m a pro writer. I think “blockchain journalism” is a very good, healthy, move. I’ve done thousands of journalistic articles, interviews, etc. I’m more than a bit tired of reading alleged news with obvious fallacies, contradictions, and absurd statements going unchallenged. The sheer idiocy of some of the facts, combined with the psychotic dishonesty of the “sources”, is a truly repulsive sight.
Good luck to you, Mr Wales, and to Wiki Tribune. I think even the attempt will deliver good values for future journalism and future news quality.

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Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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