Wikipedia has always seemed destined to converge with the news. An encyclopedia that is updated in real time is its own kind of news aggregator, after all.
And so it comes as no surprise that Jimmy Wales, the Wikipedia co-founder, is now launching a Wikipedia-like news organization called WikiTribune.
Wales explains the project on a new website, where he’s asking for donations so he can hire 10 full-time journalists. Those journalists will be tasked with reporting news stories that will then be fact-checked and edited by the wide world of internet volunteers.
“In most news sites, the community tends to hang at the bottom of articles in comments that serve little purpose,” WikiTribune says on its website. Instead, WikiTribune wants to have “professional journalists and community members working side by side as equals, and supported not primarily by advertisers, but by readers who care about good journalism enough to become monthly supporters.”
There’s good reason to be skeptical of this model, but it’s not because volunteers can’t be trusted to make accurate contributions to the news.
Wikipedia is a remarkable success story in this regard. It has had issues with accuracy, yes, but it remains a rich and reliable starting point for good information. Wikipedia articles require robust citations, meaning it’s typically straightforward for readers to see where information originates. (Understanding or vetting the quality of any given source, however, is another story.) And though WikiTribune isn’t affiliated with Wikipedia, it does share its ethos: Both are based in the idea that most people will act in good faith as stewards of informational environments.