Wikipedia founder introduces site to tackle fake news

25 Apr 2017

Wikitribune and Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales. Image: Ewan McIntosh/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has revealed he is now getting into the news business with a website called Wikitribune.

Wikipedia remains a fountain of knowledge for millions of people, with its free, open source, online encyclopaedia and legions of volunteer editors making sure that everything is accounted for.

Its founder, Jimmy Wales, has now decided that in an era when media organisations are fretting over the scourge of ‘fake news’ on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it is time for Wikimedia to enter the fray.

A journalist’s nightmare?

Similar to the way it funds Wikipedia, Wikitribune will seek crowdfunding from those interested in supporting the service, starting with a monthly fee.

The editorial content and direction of the website will also have input from these contributors, even to the point that they will be able to fact-check and make small edits to published articles.

Wikitribune intends to hire its first writer by June, with an overall goal of employing 10 journalists. The community will provide backup in the form of extra information on the article’s subject.

The journalists, meanwhile, will be expected to be completely transparent in the way they conduct themselves, with all transcripts and interviews released for scrutiny by the public.

Wikitribune added that if it doesn’t reach its funding target to pay for 10 new hires, then it will refund supporters in full.

Journalists and citizens side by side

Speaking to The Guardian, Wales described the effort as “news by the people and for the people”, admitting that he was spurred on to create it following Kellyanne Conway’s now famous “alternative facts” comment.

“This will be the first time that professional journalists and citizen journalists will work side by side as equals, writing stories as they happen, editing them live as they develop and, at all times, backed by a community checking and rechecking all facts.

“If you take as an example the bitcoin community, they’re a very active and obsessed community.

“There’s a lot of news that comes out in the field, and I think they’d love to be able to raise money to hire a journalist and put them on the bitcoin/blockchain beat,” said Wales.

Wikitribune and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Image: Ewan McIntosh/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic