Common to both Gina Chen and Megan Garber’s recent calls for incorporating the Wikipedia aesthetic into newsrooms is the timely idea of giving readers what they need to empower themselves and make sense of the world.
In her look at the hyperlocal upstart WikiCity, Chen sees a potential model (and perhaps partner) for news organizations wanting to tap into hyper-niches in their communities. In previous posts, Chen has advocated for a reinvention of news websites so that they place more emphasis on giving readers what they want — not just in terms of news, but a whole host of interests.
I think Chen is right in wanting news organizations to play a bigger, more comprehensive role in being a “one-stop-shop” for readers, via curation, in their geographic area. After looking the WikiCity sites for Tampa and St. Petersburg, (I live in the Tampa Bay area), I can see the potential for fulfilling Chen’s vision, though there’s some work to be done, as neither site is arranged in a way that I would dare call “intuitive” and the content is generally very thin.
Garber contrasts the lurid drama of the “death panels” narrative that has “proven irresistible to reporters” with the well-organized, comprehensive Wikipedia entry for “Health Care Reform in the United States.”
Indeed, what Wikipedia provides, ultimately, is information, pure and simple. And, perhaps just as significantly, it provides the implicit assumption that ‘information, pure and simple’ is enough. An encyclopedia entry has no mandate for a ‘colorful lede.’ It has no instinct for conflict. It assumes its audience’s attention, rather than feeling compelled to earn it, painstakingly—word by dramatic word.
And, because Wikipedia is crowdsourced, it has no implicit mandate, ethical or economical, toward ‘balance’ and ‘objectivity.’ It thus has no vested interest in the kind of he said/she said approach that has, to this point, so sorely compromised the mainstream media’s health care narrative.