Talk for Wiki Project "How to write a piece of journalism for WikiTribune"

Talk about this Project

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    DU
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      We would love good translations and right now, if they are in an English story and just a quote, I would probably put them in sources and references. I really like the principle. https://www.wikitribune.com/project/project-translations/

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    I would like to call attention to the Society of Professional Journalists web site Journalist’s Toolbox:

    https://www.journaliststoolbox.org

    I highly recommend the category on MOBILE JOURNALISM and the category on FREE SPEECH/FIRST AMENDMENT ISSUES.

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    I really like this piece. It’s a terrific introduction. Maybe I missed it, but I would like to see an expansion on US journalist’s First Amendment rights and responsibilities. Specifically, I think it would be a good idea for WikiTRIBUNE to have an integrated section on libel beyond the recommendation to check a style guide. It should be noted that journalists not living in the US will face different, sometimes more problematic, standards. If I did miss it, then please give me the link . . . Thanks!

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    Hi Adam, we’d certainly welcome more journalism students and instructors. As for resources, if you want them yourself, I’m more old-school and inclined to think of books. One of the best guides (and I’ve actually taught journalism at third level for years) is George Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language. Don’t let the politics word put you off – he has some excellent rules for all writers, especially journalists. It’s available online. Also -Journalism Principles and Practice, by Tony Harcup, is good though pre-online. You can email me at the WikiTribune address if you’d like more info. PS See Six rules for bloggers, which comes with Pete Young’s guide on our front page.

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        Thanks Alexander.

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    Can you recommend any more in-depth training resources? Books? Courses? Is there value in inviting journalism students/instructors to participate in WikiTribute?

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    And I can hyperlink! Happy days.

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    And more on sources, regarding your point about quoting from other reporters. I wouldn’t throw it wide open. This is an open community site, but we have to exercise some caution in whose work we refer to. If the reporter writes for a publication we trust, we can include it, but with a hyperlink to the original report and a description of the publication. Trust trust trust – that is what we are looking for and want to create.
    I hope that is some help. I’m also creating a short file, Six rules for bloggers, which gives the main guidelines for online articles.

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    Point 2, on news and news sources. We have a list of sources we believe are credible. Can’t hyperlink here, but the main explainer on the site is: https://www.wikitribune.com/project/sources-where-wikitribune-staff-look-first/
    Search “Sources” on the front page – there are several articles.
    You are right, if only individual knowledge created the news there would be precious little of it. We think, from long experience, that Reuters, AP and the BBC are highly trustworthy. The other sources listed are mostly reliable but we cannot vouch for their practice to the same degree (our consulting editors have considerable experience at all those three named organisations so know their standards).

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      And people criticizes me for writing the article on Alternet…

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    Hi Neo, I’ll attempt to answer your points, para by para. 1, re the unnamed source, Community writers can still contact an editor about a source they believe impeccable but who can’t be named. You can email us or set up a phone call if you want. Stories marked Private are just that and can only be seen by the author.
    Our editor will decide on the final protocol, but it may be that something like.. “the pollution is getting worse, a local resident [name with WT editor] told WikiTribune”.
    Generally, unnamed sources are to be avoided as far as practicable.

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    Two questions on this otherwise nice introduction:

    1. “In the rare instance where we agree to use an unnamed source, you are expected to disclose the name of the source to your editors.” How would this work on Wikitribune, where story revisions and discussion are open to anyone?

    2. Re: “News is new. It hasn’t been reported before.” The big question is, how can you get new news? Does this mean you can’t write anything in Wikitribune that you found out about from other news sites? It seems to me that most of what I see in Wikitribune articles appears to be summarized/copied/sourced from pre-existing news stories.

    If that isn’t proper, what is? Can you source from non-news websites (corporate websites, blogs, twitter, etc)? Should you watch C-SPAN and report on what you saw there instead of relying on what other reporters wrote about what they may have seen on C-SPAN? Or does C-SPAN itself count as reporting, so anything broadcast on C-SPAN is already old news?

    Is it okay to rely on other reporters’ writing if you’re bringing a new focus to their facts? (E.g., if you see 3 separate stories mentioning 3 different things Trump said about, say, why he appointed a different judges, can you write a story focusing on the range of reasons he’s given for appointing judges even though none of the individual facts/quotes in your story is “new news”? Is the answer different if the most recent of the three quotes was from a day ago vs. a month ago?)

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    I’ve seen a few people ask about how to reconcile “News answers why” and “news is true”, as well as the difficulty of drawing the line between synthesizing existing facts and posting assertions/derivations.

    An article format I intend to try with my own stories (I am currently waiting to speak with Wikitribune staff about whether this is appropriate) is to have the article broken into sections.

    Essentially, the article begins with, “What are our facts? (Citations). So this first section lists off the various sources the journalist used, and what pieces of data the journalist took from them. Think of these like truth variables (X, Y, Z, etc.,) in discrete logic (if you’re familiar).

    The second section is, “Laying the groundwork”. This takes all of the facts gathered, and it analyzes them in a few different ways. You figure out how each one works as a variable on its own, and rigorously analyze whether each source is truthful on its own. If two facts conflict, you need to either decide on which one is more-likely to be true, or write an article which can acknowledge either scenario. This is where you make a “list of assumptions” (facts as we know them) which will form the basis of the rest of the article. Both of these first two sections will probably be pretty short.

    The third section is “Proving (testing) the foundation”. Take all of the assumptions you have as-is, and compare them against as much real-world information as you can find that would refute them if they weren’t true. If you’re claiming that Teddy Roosevelt got shot in the lung during a speech, for instance, look up the symptoms of a shot to the lung. When you discover he didn’t cough up blood during his speech (historically, this was how he determined he had not, in fact, been shot in the lung) you have reason to question your sources. The goal in this section is to flip that logic; show your readers that if any one of your assertions was NOT true, there would be some evidence (so, as example, if you are asserting Roosevelt was not shot in the lung, you could present that he did not cough up blood as evidence of its truth).

    The final section is “Narrative conclusion”. This is where you bring your own, personal understanding of how the world works into the situation. Try to spot and mention any assumptions or underlying worldly understanding you are using (identifying such assumptions and challenging them is the topic of my planned articles). Readers need to be informed that this section is “the news as I (the writer) understands it”. This is where you take the facts, synthesize them with all of the other news you’ve heard, and try to draw conclusions about how this story fits into the larger narrative of the world.

    I hope this format helps! Even if you decide not to use it in full, hopefully the ideas from it will assist in rigorous journalism.

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      I think this is very important for story development but I believer readers would lose interest very quickly. Perhaps this could be done behind the scenes so to speak, so all those who are contributing will have this information for reference but the actual article is more concise.

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        While I appreciate the need for something to be ‘punchy’ and attention-grabbing, I don’t want us to sacrifice clarity and logical consistence in our reporting for those goals. That, I think, is a big part of the problem with modern journalism.

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          I suppose the best thing to do is try the format out, and see if it really does make for a snore-fest. If so, I’ll try to improve it. Thanks for the feedback, Ben.

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            Thank you Julian, and do try out your format. One thing we always need is readability … but the balance is to combine that with clarity and logic. It’s a great ongoing challenge for journalists.

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    I’m trying to understand how much of community-generated journalism is going to be “original” or primary writing, as opposed to simply synthesising information already published on the internet.

    As an example, I might notice that WikiTribune hasn’t yet run an article on a local election result, but my local news outlet has run a story on it, so I know that Mayor Quimby has won reelection. If I write an article saying that he’s won, and possibly using some information from other websites/news sources, I can create something that’s probably ‘true’, and uses accurate sources, but is it really original, or simply repackaging what else is out there?

    If they had more time and the inclination, they could of course go to the election count themselves, get original quotes from candidates, and find other original sources of information… to create a news story that wasn’t derivative, but truly original.

    Which of these models are favoured/appropriate? I think lots of people would be very happy to write the first kind of story, but it takes time & commitment to do the second…

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      I would second this. The first kind of story is easier but by own personal opinion is that WT would be more robust if community members would be willing to do the second. I don’t think there would be a lack of reporters/writers willing to do the second type either.

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    How would we go about identifying ourselves? Usually I would say “I’m Mark Wasson writing/researching a story about _____ for ____.” But since I’m not employed bu WT I’m not exactly sure how to go about it.

    Also, I would be worried about someone doing something wrong with WT’s name attached to them. Faux pas aren’t so bad but if someone gets into a shouting match (or worse) with someone else and WT’s name gets thrown out, that could be damaging to the community.

    Any thoughts?

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      I’m also interested in the answer to this. When I worked for my local paper in Los Angeles, I got a lot more answers from officials when I flashed my press badge around than when I said I was just Joe Bloggs… I wonder if the answer isn’t a bit analogous to “stringers” or freelance journalists who write the story before they know who’s going to publish it?

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        Right? The potential “power” from saying you’re writing/researching a story for WT, a global media website, far exceeds me saying I’m doing this just to gather info. Being able to point to WT as the outlet you’ll be contributing to also allows people to look into what the outlet is all about as well.

        From my experiences, working for lesser known media outlets means people are even more wary about talking to you. They don’t know what you’re about or if you’re writing for some extreme website that’s going to misuse quotes or just trash them.

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      This is a good question. I mean the idea of WT is to help bring the community to news production. So maybe we who want to build WT as a trusted news source approach it as. “hey I’m a citizen who is interested in this story/election/etc I’ll be writing a basic story that will be edited by other citizens and journalist to read about later on WikiTribune.” This, of course, would probably open up a conversation about what WT is. Would it take some work yes could it be beneficial for WT, I think so. I don’t know what do you guys think?

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        Hey Daniel – we do have something set up for people which is the Daily News Agenda here –
        https://www.wikitribune.com/project/daily-news-agenda/

        That gets reviewed by the staff journalists who have written stories based on community interest and call for participation from people interested in the subject. (Small example – https://www.wikitribune.com/story/2017/12/21/poland/take-part-is-polands-democracy-waning/30399/)

        Please check it out if you want to add ideas or request coverage. You can also let people know on a relevant project that you’re working on a story. We’ve got tech for example here – https://www.wikitribune.com/project/wikiproject-tech/

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    I’m not a professional journalist, but while reading these guidelines I read the following: “News answers the question, “Why?”” which IMHO is in contrast with “If it isn’t true, it isn’t news.”

    Example: when a journalist is trying to explain why certain events happen he gives his interpretation of events. His interpretation of events might not be the actual truth.

    Of course it is a different case if the person or organisation who has committed or acted in the reported event explain their view.

    I’m interested to know the opinion in regards tho this though from Professional Journalists.

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      I read this portion as asking “Why is this news?” Or “Why should people care about this?”

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        Oh, that might be a correct interpretation. I’m not a native english speaker, but maybe the section needs a different wording IMHO.

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          The only reason that I thought that is because I am in J-School now, and we just learned that.

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      Hi Nicolas
      You’re touching here on the old bone of contention: can a journalist be objective?
      The argument, as you suggest, is that an individual making choices (include that fact, don’t include that quote) is a subjective exercise. There is no getting around that, but I have always believed that striving for objectivity is worthwhile and, effectively, often achievable. For example: ‘President Kennedy has been shot.
      He was riding in a limousine with his wife and Texas governor John Connally … etc ‘… This is fact, and valuable for the audience.

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