Experience from English Wikinews

(published in Czech as Zkušenosti z anglických Wikizpráv, on January 27, 2013)

I have written a news story about Czech presidential election on English Wikinews. It is my sixth story on English Wikinews (in almost five years, which means I am not a regular contributor there). My experience with English Wikinews is however more and more unconvincing.

English Wikinews obtained a status of media aggregated into Google News. It meant Wikinews had to start an official review system. Who writes a story, marks it with the review template and waits for an approval from the experienced author. The review comprises content, language and formal copyediting. The story is not published unless it has passed a successful review process.

Of course, this is a good concept, although it does not fully correspond to the original standard of Wikipedia "what I edit, immediately occurs on wiki". It has to be mentioned that flagged revisions (a similar, but less complicated system) are already on on several Wikipedia versions, eg. Russian Wikipedia, Polish, German, Hungarian and even on English Wikipedia. Wikinews however is a different project with a different content. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, where users usually use searches to find propper information. Wikinews is a news portal, where readers usually look for the materials published on front page. And without publishing (without being approved in the review process) the news story does not occur on front page.Added more in comparison with the original story: In fact, the stories that are not published, are later considered "abandoned" and they are deleted.

And this is the point. The review system on Wikinews is simply too slow. News approval does not take several minutes, but hours. At present, when the internet news go online with news published in minutes, the English Wikinews are respectable, however useless as news service.

And more, it seems to me not all news are treated the same way. Some news are reviewed within hours, other even within tens of hours. My story waits for review for 24 hours. One contributor, probably a newcomer himself, entered the discussion about its quality. If any official reviewer read the story and if not, why - I do not know. In fact, it is not easy to find who are the official reviewers.

What I write, is the outsider view, the view of the "permanent newcomer" to English Wikinews, however on the other side, it is a view of an experienced Wikipedian and an educated journalist, who knows well, what wiki-news need.

So allow me to add some more observations.

It is difficult to find how the new author should work. When the review system was founded on Wikinews, it was rather difficult to find it really works. The person entering the Wikinews from Wikipedia should have easily start a story, then wait, wait and wait - and suddenly be informed the article was marked abandoned, because he did not know how to mark it for review. The situation is a little bit better now, with a pre-filled template when starting a new story. Nevertheless the interface did not make much progress to inform the author better. It looks, however, that even the stories that have been started wrongly, are cared somehow, which is an improvement.

Another disappointing finding: English Wikinews probably do not follow enough, whether the potential renaming of the article was made by copy and paste. This way violates the Creative Commons license, I had to correct one such case today, anyway.

English Wikinews are one of the biggest in the Wikimedia space. Although I have many objections in regards of Czech Wikinews, the English Wikinews situation is problematic in various aspects, as well.

Well, I am also trying my luck on French Wikisource as well, and even there, the first steps are not easy...


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