I have to admit, I haven’t really been tracking on Wikinews since it went live. I visited recently, and I remain ambivalent. In many ways, by surviving as long as it has, it may have made it through the shakiest part of its gestation. But it still doesn’t stand well on its own.
The Wired News quote gets at the heart of what I see as its major problem. It’s not trying to do what blogs often do, and act as a colored news filter. But it also isn’t a news organization, as it stands. It’s a bit like a (relatively) clear news filter — the human version of Google News. Many of the stories are derived directly from the mainstream media. It is certainly not plagiarized — all of the news is clearly sourced — but it does have the feeling of a clipping service.
That’s not to say that there are no indications of the radical possibilities. There are stories that are not part of the mainstream, and there is some original reporting, but there needs to be much, much more of this. I understand that at this stage they need to rely on existing news stories in order to “bootstrap” a useful resource, but it needs to get to that tipping point where they use other news sources to fill in where original reporting hasn’t quite made it.
Indeed, ideally, Wikinews would serve as a kind of wire service itself, supplying news to other news services; a kind of grassroots Interpress news service. So, I think some of the ethic that brought Wikinews into being still holds promise, and the site is “not dead yet!” which really is important.
First, notice how many people turned to Wikipedia for news about the new pope. There is some space there between the depth of Wikipedia and the place of Wikinews. I’m not sure what that space is, but clearly people saw value in Wikipedia at that moment, perhaps more than they saw value in Wikinews. Where is the articulation between these two.
Second, right now multimedia (and esp. photos) is pulled only from the commons — I wonder whether is there is a way to articulate with Flickr to provide possible edited images of events. Someone needs to provide a *very* clean way of using cameraphone images in a newsy way, and Wikinews has the potential to fulfill this.
Finally, where are the j-schools in this? Are they worried that by participating in a collaborative project they will somehow hurt their own reputation? I would suggest this is a mistake. If I were teaching journalism courses (I’m not), I would absolutely have students uploading their articles. Even a small journalism class, with weekly assignments, would be a windfall for the site.