News Leadership 3.0

January 27, 2012

How to bring journalists and Wikipedia closer together?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yesterday KDMC published an interview with Fabrice Florin, who’s now in charge of engaging new editors at Wikimedia (the nonprofit that supports Wikipedia and other projects). That conversation sparked further thoughts on how and why journalists might get more involved with Wikipedia, which Florin shared in an e-mail to trusted collaborators. With his permission, we’re republishing it here…

Florin wrote:

Writer Amy Gahran asked some insightful questions about my new gig at Wikimedia and how it relates to our collective work in journalism, news literacy and civic engagement.

This brought some new insights on how to engage [news] professionals and amateurs as active collaborators on Wikipedia, to help us all get better informed. With that in mind, I would be grateful for your advice on how we might be able to bring these two movements closer to each other.

I think we have an untapped opportunity to engage more journalists to use Wikipedia as a shared resource. The vision is that over time, news reporters would get in the habit of posting updates on Wikipedia, after they have filed their story and shared it on social networks. It seems like a worthy goal and I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether this is a realistic scenario—and if so, how we might help make that happen.

It’s also worth noting that Wikipedia has arguably become a de-facto news organization in its own right. Even though the encyclopedia doesn’t do any original reporting, it’s an effective information-gathering service and their articles on current news events are usually informative, in-depth and well-sourced—and often provide backgrounders that are more useful to average readers than traditional news stories, which tend to focus more on breaking news. And the amount of traffic on these current news articles is phenomenal.

Perhaps there might be a way to leverage Wikipedia’s content and its traffic to make it more valuable for professionals to contribute regularly to this shared knowledge base. I’m not sure how to accomplish that yet, but I would love to figure out a way, with your help. It could transform the quality of Wikipedia and its user experience, which would benefit all of us, and perhaps also help journalists in the process.

Wikimedia’s challenge is to make the user experience so rewarding that professional journalists would be willing to spend a few minutes a day to share what they’ve learned, in ways that benefit both them and the encyclopedia. How could we do that? 

Your ideas on this would be most welcome. Please comment below.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC is a partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The Center is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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