Since the events of November, I have wanted to follow the news more closely. I discovered that staying on top of current events is hard.
Using Twitter for news, my general strategy for the last few years, is becoming more and more difficult. Lately I have settled on getting most of my news from The New York Times’ Daily Podcast and the Vox Sentences Newsletter.
Finding news is easy, but finding news that I completely trust is a bit more difficult. There are news organizations that I generally trust, but I find even they will post things that are misleading or missing important context1.
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, hopes to have a solution to the problem of untrustworthy news. That solution is Wikitribune.
Wikitribune will have four tent pole ideas that it will set it apart from other news platforms.
Always show sources.
This one is big for transparency. Allowing the reader to know where all the information that they are getting comes from will go a long way toward being able to trust what they say.
My big question on this point is how they will handle situations where the source needs to be anonymous.
No ads. Everything is free.
For me, this is the biggest one. No ads has two big advantages.
First, the reading experience will be nice. Websites that don’t have ads look nicer and are more enjoyable to read.
Second (and more importantly), the incentives of the site will align with the users. Websites that are ad-driven have a build in incentive to get page views. An exaggerated story about Trump will get more page views than the real story, so their business incentive goes against good journalism.
Journalists work with the community.
This one it the most interesting and the most unknown of the four. Similarly to Wikipedia, members of the community will be able to offer edits and fixes for articles. These edits will have to be approved by one of the journalists.
Out of everything, this is biggest differentiator between Wikitribune and other news outlets.
All financials are public.
All of the content on Wikitribune will be free to everyone. It will be financially supported by people donating regularly. As a part of that, they will regularly publish all of their financial information.
I have no idea if a site like Wikitribune can work, but I really like the idea.
They are currently doing a month-long pledge to raise enough money to hire 10 journalists. They hope to launch the site this fall.
You can donate at wikitribune.com.
Update: Jimmy Wales did a Reddit AMA about the site, where he answered my big question about anonymous sourcing.
So basically, I don’t propose an absolute ban on anonymous sourcing - just a “strict scrutiny” approach.
The entire AMA is probably worth looking though if you are on the fence about supporting.
Quick note about my biggest pet peeve on reporting over the Trump administration – I hate it when publications exaggerate something that the Trump does or says.
Don’t get me wrong, he does and says a bunch of stupid stuff; but they are not doing their readers any favors by making things sound worse than they are.
They are providing ammunition for him to call you #fakenews and, frankly, he could be correct. The last thing we want is for publications to lose their credibility so they are not taken seriously when there is something important that needs to be reported.
Okay, end rant. ↩︎
Unfortunately, they do not accept Apple Pay as a form of payment. ↩︎
If their funding goal is not reached, all the donations will be refunded. ↩︎