Journalism and Wikipedia: A discussion in San Francisco

Panelists Andrew Lih, Dan Cook, and Liberty Madison share a laugh with moderator Pete Forsyth. This photo and those below by Eugene Eric Kim, licensed CC BY.

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We began by asking pairs of participants to discuss a time when Wikipedia delighted them, and a time when it frustrated them.

We hosted a discussion, with the meetup group Hacks & Hackers, last week: The Future of Journalism in a Wikipedia World. (original Meetup.com announcement & description)

My colleague Dan Cook and I wanted to engage journalists to share some of our own thoughts about the intersection of Wikipedia and Journalism — but also to hear from them about what Wikipedia looks like from their vantage point. Do reporters and editors see Wikipedia as a threat? a resource? How do they feel about its coverage of topics they cover themselves?

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I suspect some of the side discussions were the best part of the event! Looking forward to hearing them recapped.

I had been inspired by recent gatherings hosted by my friend Eugene Eric Kim (whose photos illustrate this piece); his approach emphasizes participation over pontification. With his help, I devised a format that would help the “audience” engage with the opportunities, risks, and general significance associated with Wikipedia from the beginning, spurring discussion that would last throughout the evening.

After we heard a few observations and anecdotes from the crowd, our panelists presented some ideas. Andrew Lih, a longtime Wikipedian and journalism scholar, presented the idea that Wikipedia fills a void between the cutting edge of news publications and longer-term scholarship and curation typically conducted by, for instance, academia and museums. Liberty Madison, founder of #ThatTechGirl Digital, spoke of millenials’ perception of Wikipedia, and the perception that if something isn’t on Wikipedia, it isn’t true or significant. Dan Cook, an editor and enterprise reporter, presented some case studies from our work at Wiki Strategies, highlighting opportunities for journalists to further their efforts to inform the public by contributing to, or at least commenting on, Wikipedia content. And Jack Craver, who wrote our recent blog post about undisclosed paid editing by PR companies, joined us to recap that piece.

Delicious sous vide treats prepared by our host, Nomiku. Photo by Eugene Eric Kim, licensed CC BY.

Delicious sous vide treats prepared by our host, Nomiku. Photo by Eugene Eric Kim, licensed CC BY.

When we wrapped up the panel, the discussion continued over delicious food and drinks from our host, Nomiku; and then spilled over to an impromptu outing to a local bar. You’ll find various links, photos, video, and social media commentary about the event here; if you have further thoughts, let us know in the comments here, or via social media! We look forward to hearing your thoughts, whether your background or interests are in Wikipedia or journalism.

About Pete Forsyth

Pete Forsyth is the principal of Wiki Strategies, and a Wikipedia expert. Full bio here: wikistrategies.net/pete-forsyth
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