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Thursday, June 16, 2005

...and yet I'm still here

NB Apologies for the lack of links in this post - 360 playing up :-(.

Just two posts ago I made some pretty damming comments about Wikinews, and also seemed to have talked myself out of working on the project.

The first thing to say is that I use this blog as a safety valve - a place without rules where I can let off steam. I often feel much better for having written something here.

And so it was in this case - straight after writing that post, I actually spent an hour or two beavering away on WN. I reminded myself that, when all said and done, Wikinews doesn't have to be anything more than a hobby, and there's no need to get worked up about it.

My post did not go unnoticed though, with Eloquence posting a response on my Talk page, so I should respond to those comments.

First, Indymedia does a lot better than us on Alexa, so it's not true to say that all websites which deal with 'minority' news do poorly. And previously I've agreed with Elo - certainly in my first few months on WN, most of my stories were covering the 'big news' of the day for exactly the reasons Elo states.

However, having seen our growth and the size of Indymedia's audience, a seed of doubt was sown in my mind, which I elaborated on below.

Yet Elo is basically right - if we're ever to reach Wikipedia levels of use, we have to cover 'big news'. It's just hard to saythat right now, our coverage is better. And I really do not believe that Reuters is biased. I don't think the BBC is either - in fact their 'fair and balanced' mantra gives results remarkably like our own 'neutral point of view' does.

What we can do though, and this is something I've felt from the start, is be more accurate. Take a BBC News about electric toothbrushes, and then read the NHS's appraisal of the study. Saying "only one type of electric toothbrush produced better results despite being many times more expensive" is not really the same as "The only powered toothbrushes that were consistently found to be better than manual toothbrushes were those with a rotation oscillation action. For the other types of powered toothbrush, there is insufficient, good quality randomized evidence for reliable comparisons with manual toothbrushes", is it? The BBC provided a fair and balanced story - note the quotes at the bottom of the story from the likes of the BDA. But they didn't actually get the story right.

Now, obviously there's more to world news than electric toothbrushes, but this demonstrates how, I feel, Wikinews can be better than the 'mainstream media'.

And sometimes our shorter stories are rather good - our report on the Michael Jackson verdict tells you the story in a very clear, easy to view way. It tells what the charges were, what the verdicts are, and what is required for a 'not guilty' verdict in US law. Compare that with the BBC News story, which doesn't list what the charges actually were - and even includes puff about a BBC documentary, which the BBC claims led to the case being brought(!).

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