John Thornhill at the Financial Times: “During the Iraq war, the Los Angeles Times attempted to harness the collective wisdom of its readers by crowdsourcing an editorial, called a wikitorial, on the conflict. It was a disaster. The arguments between the hawks and doves quickly erupted into a ranting match. The only way to salvage the mess was to “fork” the debate inviting the two sides to refine separate arguments.
If it is impossible to crowdsource an opinion column, is it any more realistic to do so with news in our hyper-partisan age? We are about to find out as Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, is launching Wikitribune in an attempt to do just that. Declaring that “news is broken”, Mr Wales said his intention was to combine the radical community spirit of Wikipedia with the best practices of journalism. His crowdfunded news site, free of advertising and paywalls, will initially be staffed by 10 journalists working alongside volunteer contributors.
Mr Wales is right that the news business desperately needs to regain credibility given the erosion of trusted media organisations, the proliferation of fake news and the howling whirlwind of social media. It is doubly problematic in an era in which unscrupulous politicians, governments and corporations can now disintermediate the media by providing their own “alternative facts” direct to the public.
Unlikely as it is that Wikitribune has stumbled upon the answer, it should be applauded for asking the right questions. How can the media invent sustainable new models that combine credibility, relevance and reach? One thing to note is that Wikipedia has for years been producing crowdsourced news in the Wikinews section of its site, with little impact. Wikinews invites anyone to write the news. But the service is slow, clunky and dull.
As a separate project, Wikitribune is breaking with Wikipedia’s core philosophy by entrusting experts with authority. As a journalist, I warm to the idea that Mr Wales thinks we serve some useful purpose. But it will surely take time for his new site to create a viable hybrid culture….(More)”.