Wikipedia and Churnalism

Churnalism is defined at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churnalism

But if you haven’t read Nick Davies’s book Flat Earth News I would recomend doing so.

But how does wikipedia stand against charges of churnalism? To some extent it is hard to argue otherwise. Our no original research policy leaves us little room to do otherwise (except to an extent with photos).

Perhaps a defence could be mounted in that per policy wikipedia is not news. Realisiticaly though wikipedia has plently of articles that qualify as current events types products. Various articles on hurricanes and the current arab protests/uprisings being examples.

Even in non current event focused articles it’s still an issue though. When I was editing the bude canal article to include information about the damage to the sealock I was using classic churnalism practices by using a council press release as a source. In fact in some ways we are in a worse position than standard churnalism the no original reseach policy would tend to object to even the most mininal of journalism practices of phoning up the council and asking some questions about the event.

To an extent I think a defence can be mounted in that we admit our sources (well in theory), try and use higher quality sources and at least in some cases put some serious effort into tracking down less acessable sources.

Still we should take care to do what we can to make sure our churnalism is good churnalism. Make sure our sources are genuinely independent. When dealing with current events try including background material from non news media sources. Finding wikipedians who actually know stuff about the subject in question can be useful when deciding which bits of breaking news to quietly ignore in current events articles. There is also need to remember that unlike more conventional current event sources with can absorb trailing events by a fair bit. Not only is our income not in any case directly driven by the traffic we can get for current events articles but people don’t seem to mind to much if we are a few hours or more behind. We didn’t get too many complaints when we refused to declare Michael Jackson dead for example.

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