FAQs: neutrality

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How will you stop people manipulating WikiTribune? People with vested interests or malicious intent, for instance?
The design of open communities makes this hard to do, but it’s still something we’re prepared for. For instance, we’re avoiding voting mechanisms on the site because they’re too easy to game.

It’s easy to say you’ll be neutral and unbiased, but much harder to do – especially long term. How do you plan to achieve objectivity?
It’s a lot of hard work. We have to be willing to constantly challenge ourselves and our biases, and re-evaluate based on new evidence. There’s no magic answer, but we’ll always have the community to keep us accountable.

How will you assess whether bias and prejudice has been institutionalised within the community?
Good old-fashioned analysis and thinking. Plus, you can always rely on the internet community to tell you when they think you’re biased.

Sometimes objective truth gets drowned out in favour of a false sense of balance. How will you avoid that problem?
We don’t go in for a simplistic, “he said/she said” view of neutrality. But we also don’t think crowds are likely to pay lip service to balance as much as top-down news organisations do. Wikipedia doesn’t say “Some say the moon is made of rocks, others say it’s made of cheese” for example.

If anyone can write for WikiTribune, how will new ideas and independent thinkers get their message across? Won’t they be overwhelmed by majority viewpoints?
One key is to avoid voting mechanisms, which tend to excessively reinforce the majority view. Beyond that, vigilance and a continual willingness to look at the evidence.

How will you ensure the honesty and integrity of community editors?
Vigilance and regular evaluations. As much as possible, we should also post the evidence (transcripts, documents, audio, video) so that anyone can confirm the accuracy of what we’re saying.

How can I be sure WikiTribune’s “news” isn’t chosen and edited according to the worldview and wants of a few wealthy contributors?
Everything WikiTribune does will be open and collaborative, watched over by the community. Donating a lot of money to Wikipedia doesn’t get you anywhere in terms of the content, and WikiTribune will work the same way.

What if 10,000 opinionated people want to pay for reporting that furthers their agenda? What kinds of checks will there be to stop anti-democratic groups using WikiTribune?
One of the reasons we’re not setting up a “journalism marketplace” type of system where people can directly choose journalists and pay them is that this would lead to this situation. The core of WikiTribune will be neutral reporting from day one, and the hiring process will reflect that.

Will community members declare their interests? Are PR people banned?
We’ll provide more details nearer the launch, but broadly speaking, yes and yes. Independence and integrity are key.

What steps will you be taking as a business to protect your journalistic integrity?
Firstly, using a business model that relies on support from readers rather than ads. That keeps us accountable – if the readers lose faith in our integrity, we lose our funding.
And secondly, opening our site up to the community for oversight, transparency, and collaboration. That keeps us accountable.

Is it actually possible to be completely impartial?
No human being can ever be perfect. But we’re a community of many human beings, which will take much of the edge off people’s individual biases. And regardless of whether perfection is achievable, it’s still possible to be closer to it than other ways of working.

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