“The news is broken, but we figured out how to fix it.” These were Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’ opening words in a video announcing his new media venture, WikiTribune, in April last year. The platform, a hybrid between citizen and professional journalism, officially launched in October, and has vowed to bring back the public’s trust in journalism through neutral, evidence-based coverage and full transparency around its reporting process.
Its staff is made up of around a dozen journalists and editors who mainly work out of WikiTribune’s London headquarters. Similar to the Wikipedia model, readers are encouraged to take part in every step of the editorial process, from weighing in with story suggestions to fact-checking articles or flagging bias, with community edits subject to approval by a member of the editorial team.
Now, six months after launch and with around 5,000 monthly subscribers, Orit Kopel, co-founder and VP of business development at WikiTribune, talks about some of the challenges associated with this new model.
WAN-IFRA: It’s been a year since WikiTribune has been announced. What are you doing differently from the original plan? What has been working particularly well, and what have been some of the more challenging aspects?
Orit Kopel: We’ve learned many lessons in the past year and made many mistakes, but that’s the best way to learn! WikiTribune is an attempt to create a radical new concept that has never been tried before in the world of Journalism. Our main challenge has been to increase community collaboration and that is now our main focus. We are currently working on many changes on our platform, mainly to make it easier for readers to edit and discuss the content of the articles. We are reconsidering the subjects and frequency of the stories that we cover. We plan to initiate more community events, such as meetups and hack-a-thons. We’re working hard on making WikiTribune the fully collaborative news Wiki platform that we wish for it to be and step by step we’re getting there.
What are some of the key issues in journalism WikiTribune is trying to address?
WikiTribune is attempting to bring back the public’s trust in journalism. We are doing so by trusting the public and integrating them in the process of producing the news. This radical idea ensures the quality and reliability of the news coverage and not less importantly – increases its neutrality. We want to be the bridge between the public and the facts, while delivering the information in the most neutral way possible. This can only happen with full collaboration by the community, in a similar process that has been most successful in Wikipedia.
How do you think the community’s involvement helps build trust in WikiTribune’s journalism?
Our key factors are neutrality and transparency, where the entire editorial process is fully available for the public’s review and collaboration. We close the gap between news “consumers” and news “producers”, by welcoming the community to take equal part in the newsroom. Our community members initiate, author, fact-check, verify and improve all the articles. Every step of the editorial process, from the idea, initial draft to publication, is transparent to all, including interviews’ transcripts and recordings when possible. This allows the community the highest levels of participation and a true capacity to monitor the articles and remove any biases or inaccuracies. We don’t demand the public’s trust, we offer full transparency and collaboration for us to earn it.
How would you characterise WikiTribune’s coverage, and what are some of the core topics/areas the journalists focus on? How involved is the community in the editorial decision-making process?
We aim for our community to take equal part in selecting the topics covered on WikiTribune and initiate new articles. We’ve been covering, to different degrees, most of the current events. However, we are now reconsidering this process and we are trying to focus on original stories that are not covered by other news sites. Our coming amendments to the platform will make it easier to our community to suggest and initiate topics and collaborate on them all the way to publication.
To hear more from Orit Kopel, join us at this year’s World News Media Congress, 6-8 June in Estoril, Portugal.