My interactions with Wikinews have been largely positive. The stringent policies enforced there, as to what is ‘newsworthy’ and therefore publishable, is what makes the collaborative news site so successful. Going to this website guarantees the viewer the most unbiased and accurate take on the news as possible, as the articles are pushed through a harsh peer-review process.
The articles are kept fresh and relevant by requiring the author to include credible news sources that are usually no older than 2-3 days old. Wikinews also provides a style guide so that writers are informed as to the guidelines to have an article published successfully. This style guide incorporates all the principles of an ethical and fair newsroom in terms of honest and unbiased reporting. Indeed, the style guide also demands the writer’s tone to be “clear, concise and unambiguous” when they put together their article. Using active voice is also very important to push the notion that the news being conveyed is of an urgent nature and that the reader feels more inclined to read it immediately. Using an inverted pyramid style assists the writer to construct their articles in this way.
Using this peer-review system allows work to be of a publishable standard and fact-checked. By collaborating between students we were able to pair up a writer and editor to work on one story in the hope of pushing one through the peer-review process.
The typical process of guiding a story through Wikinews is different for both the editor and writer. Usually the writer finds a story of interest to Wikinews and then convenes with the editor to assure its newsworthiness, and to begin writing the article. In JOUR311, we have found that stories to do with sport or political injustice as well as stories that don’t see a lot of coverage in the mainstream media are stories that are more likely to get published on the Wikinews site. Story ideas that were less likely to get included stories that were not necessarily newsworthy or in some cases were seen to be advertising. For example – articles on gaming tend to usually focus on promoting hardware and new games or systems and this can be newsworthy to gamers but can come across as advertising to others. Indeed a lot of gaming journalism does tend to be mixed in with advertising, but that is an entirely different debate…
Researching the article is key. Wikinews stories are usually about 300 words in length, so only contain the most important facts. This is especially relevant in today’s connected world as people are linked online through social media applications and deal with everyday processes online. Being in such a connected age, people are able to whip up a news story on their smartphone and have a plethora of news information available at their fingertips. Being able to convey important information quickly is essential to get your message across to the reader and keep them coming back for your reliable information. By thoroughly researching the article you can pick out the most relevant two sources (or even more) to include with the article which is a requirement.
Writing the story is only the first part.
Once the writer has gone over and reviewed their own article, the article is pushed through to publish and entered onto the Newsroom for other editors to go through and edit. While our class usually had a dedicated editor for each story posted to the site, any editor can come along to change and edit the story through for the goal of pushing it through to the front page, or at least published to Wikinews. This replicates the collaborative effort of a real-life cooperative per-reviewed newsroom. The idea behind working together on the editing of a story is so that we can publish the best story as possible.
The next step is waiting for peer-reviewers to pick up your pieces and go through them. This can be frustrating as (mentioned before) to wait for, but cannot be helped, as the qualified editors have a massive load of work cut out for them with our inundation of articles throughout the semester. The editors go through and pick out any inaccuracies involving grammar and all things related to their style guide to make sure it has the unbiased tone that Wikinews aims to project. This process is stringently adhered to and ensures that every reporter is met with the same reviewing standards]and article is assessed as fairly as possible.
Once the articles have gone through the peer-review system it can go either of two ways. They do some minor or major edits to bring the article up to their standards and then go ahead publishing it (sometimes even featured on the front page!). Otherwise your article can be knocked back and a multitude of errors or guideline violations are listed in order for both the writer and the editor to change, edit and try to publish the article again.
A problem that I have faced with editing articles is that I do not want to be too harsh. An important part of an article is maintaining the writer’s voice and perspective, so when the article needs deletions and major edits it feels as if you are diminishing the reader’s voice.
The whole point of the subject is to demonstrate the need for collegiality and communication through all aspects of news-reporting. Being on a writing and editing team all the way through gives articles a larger depth of knowledge and perspective, rather than if it was just constructed by one journalist. Different people have different life experiences that affect how they view the world, and it is important to remember that this informs each person of the type of news they choose to view and construct. It is very important that we do not let important stories fall out of perspective.
Editing the articles was a very important aspect of being able to get stories published. Having two sets of eyes is better than one, and this was certainly the case for this subject. While I never managed to get an edited article over the line, I have realised just how much time and effort goes in to making sure an article is ready to be published.
Fact-checking, newsworthiness, grammar & punctuation, coherence and plagiarism are just a few of the factors that must be considered when editing an article. Using Google I found was the easiest way to make sure that any facts the article was claiming (outside of the linked articles) were true. If a statement is made that seems a little out of context, a simple Google search will often save a lot of time rather than trying to scour through related articles to verify the accuracy of what is being said.
Reading the related articles first before reading the Wikinews article was a method I used in order to make sure I understood the content sufficiently. Understanding the content allowed me to edit from a more informed perspective and easily spot out any discrepancies with what the Wiki article was saying vs. the source articles. This also made it easier to spot out any evidence of plagiarism, though fortunately there was none that I encountered.
My first instance of editing was when I helped Brendon to create his article “Australian Government proposes amendments to Racial Discrimination Act”. Obviously this topic was very controversial at the time and while it had received ample coverage through Australian media outlets, it was an issue that was fantastic to broadcast on Wikinews. I proofread the article for Brendon before he published it on Wikinews and read through for cohesiveness and general grammar and plagiarism edits. His writing was of very high quality though, so the was barely anything that needed to be changed. I assisted by suggesting another article to synthesise two sources, however he was already on top of everything. By the time he had submitted the article for review it was of such a standard that it did not need to be knocked back for the peer-review stage and only required minor edits to be published.
This exposed me to what calibre of work was considered to be of a publishable standard. Communication between reporters and editors also plays an important part in keeping on top of the article, being ready to quickly push out revised editions within the newsworthy time frame. This is reflective of real world practices in a modern newsroom.
The second article that I edited involved an article by Lochlan entitled “New study links video game aggression to feelings of violence”
Initially I went through the article and did the standard checks to make sure everything was in order. As this is a subject I am interested in, I could see that Lochlan had eliminated bias from the article and was just reporting on the facts – something that parties on both sides of the debate have trouble with while reporting in the mainstream media. I believed this was a very important factor to consider when posting a Wikiarticle involving this long-standing debate. I thought Lochlan’s message in the article was clear and required no further editing, so I submitted it for review.
Unfortunately the article did not get published. I thought it was a valuable contribution to the violence in videogames debate.
The next article that I contributed editing services to was another of Lochlan’s articles named “FBI agent arrested in Pakistan.
I thought this article was interesting and it wasn’t something that I had heard of in the mainstream news. I did not even pick it up from /r/worldnews on reddit! So Lachlan had sent over some of his draft work which I went through, changing sentences here and there for structural purposes, though I did not want to diminish the voice of his article. Once I felt that the article had been sufficiently edited, I hit publish to submit the article for review.
I watched this article over the rest of the week and right up until the beginning again, anxiously waiting for the article to either get published or pushed back. I wanted to check it regularly so that I could jump on the article if it did get rejected initially so that we would still be within the newsworthy timeframe for the article to be published. Unfortunately, I feel the reviewers may have had a backlog in articles or other commitments that meant Lochlan’s article fell just outside the guidelines for timeliness. We ended up reworking the article the next week in class, with Lochlan adding and changing a lot of the article to give it a fresh angle. However, the article had been rejected again causing the article to eventually be abandonded due to no new developments to add to the story.
I conducted a brief edit of the story that covered the Turkish Mine disaster. I had thought this article was pretty solid for publication, so only did basic checks of the article, including fact-checks.
The main contribution I provided was rearranging and editing the article for style purposes to appear more neutral, however it did not get published through the Wiki-review process.
The next edit came much later with my attempt to revive a dead article that I thought was interesting – “A new dimension in 3D printing materials”
I found the topic matter to be interesting, though not necessarily newsworthy. I did try to find news sources to add that may revive the page, however there was nothing around at the time. Instead, I edited the article for basic grammar and structure as well as trying to tidy up some of the links in the article.
The final edit was conducted on one of Justin’s articles – China court jails three anti-corruption activists.
Justin is obviously an experienced reviewer and story publisher. Having working on articles with him before and discussing potential ideas for my own stories to be published, he knows what the Wikinews reviewers expect. There was not much in-depth editing to conduct, though I proofread and fact-checked the article as well as searching the internet to see if there were any other articles to contribute to his point of view.
The article is currently sitting on the site awaiting peer review.
UPDATE: As of 21/06/2014 Justin’s article has been published
The stories that I attempted to get published all got pushed through the review stage and then published onto the front page. My user name was originally HyruleUOW, though I forgot the password and created a secondary account HyruleUOW1
I believe all of these articles were covering a void in popular media that was not present at the time of publication or provide an alternative view. Using Wikinews has taught me to think on a different line to whatever is happening in mainstream publication. It has validated the belief I hold that reporting should be conducted fairly and honestly. In particular with gaming journalism (a field I am trying to break in to), it is important to make sure that any feature or product that you do cover cannot come off as blatant advertising. Having an impartial view is incredibly important and a journalist cannot let outside influences (whether it be monetary or a new Xbox One) sway your responsibility to readers that you must report with the utmost integrity. By having journalism students take classes like Wikinews and having these values embedded into their education programs protects them from ethical and legal considerations that they may encounter further in their working life.
The ability to use social media and news aggregators to view what is trending is an important aspect of writing newsworthy stories. If publishing online, which seems to be the norm in today’s news media, you have to be able to write stories that people will want to click on to and then read the whole way through. Having colleagues with a divergent set of experiences benefit the overall diversity of the newsroom – being able to cover a wider range of stories, which is what you want.
All in all, I feel that I gained invaluable knowledge from this subject that I haven’t found replicated in another at university as of yet. Being able to go outside the bounds of what feels like an entirely sheltered existence at university, is what really made the experience worthwhile. Using colleagues as your editors and then having the various Wiki-reviewers as you Editors-In-Chief, simulating a real-world example of a newsroom was effective. It replicates the way in which we cross physical divides by digital means.