Friday, February 11, 2005


"The Unassociated Press" from The New York Times. Related to my prior article on Wikipedia:

You may, in the course of reading this article, spot a factual error that made it to press. A certain bit of grammar may makes you bristle, or you may think the writing is biased. But by now the ink has dried; all you can do is send an e-mail message or a letter of complaint.

If this article had been published on Wikinews, a Web site begun recently, there would be something more you could do: change it, fix it, expand it or delete it.

Wikinews ( is an experiment in collaborative news gathering and reporting, and the latest in a collection of Wikis (pronounced WIK-eez or WEEK-eez) under the umbrella of Wikimedia, which cultivates free and open information resources written by its users.

The largest Wiki project, Wikipedia, has been online for four years and contains more than 450,000 articles, all written and open to revision by its more than 150,000 users. By comparison, Wikinews is a newborn, having opened its doors to interested news writers and reporters in December.

Central to Wikinews is its commitment to neutrality, said Jimmy Wales, a founder of Wikipedia and president of the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation. In a community that largely sets its own standards, Mr. Wales's policy of a neutral point of view may be the single most important driving principle.

Ilya Haykinson, a Los Angeles software engineer and contributor to several Wikinews articles, said that policy set the effort apart from some other citizen journalism projects, like Indymedia (, OhmyNews of South Korea ( and news blogs.

The system's primary check is its transparency. Inspired, in part, by the success of open source software development, the writing process is completely public. Anyone at any time can compose a new Wikinews article, edit an existing one and see an inventory of all prior changes.

Mr. Haykinson, for instance, wrote an article on Dec. 11 about the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental campaigner. At least five people have since contributed revisions. One, filed about two weeks after the original, was submitted by a user identified only by his Internet protocol address. (Users have the option to register and log in.) It was annotated as having removed pro-environment, anti-Kenyan government bias.

For Wikinews proponents, the evolution of content is one of the system's strengths, and one of its challenges. The larger and more mature Wikipedia project is often cited by Wiki users as an example of how consensus can evolve into truth. But Wikinews articles do not enjoy the same luxury of time. (full article)

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