Tag Archives: wikipedia

Weekly #8: The Credibility of News

Seated on a stool, propped up at the perfect height behind an ironing board, which was used as her pretend news desk, the young girl cleared her throat and spoke into her hand-held microphone,  “We are on in three, two, one.  Live from K-L Studios this is Katie reporting today’s latest news.”

You guessed it. That young girl was me – imitating my favorite newscaster, repeating what I heard or creating my own version of what was happening in the world. Those carefree hours, spent in what my mom would call “unceasing chatter,” eventually led me to where I am today.

After getting into the journalism school at the University of Wisconsin, I interned on the assignment desk at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis and later as a reporter intern at NBC 15 in Madison, where I wrote stories for nightly newscasts. I quickly learned that the broadcast world wasn’t for me. I had seen enough community fundraisers, rummage sales and car accidents. I also didn’t want to start my career in Podunk, USA and spend years waiting for a big break. That’s what eventually convinced me to jump the fence and pursue a career in public relations. After five years in the field, I’m confident to say I made the right choice.

In last week’s class, I learned that being a certified journalist is no easy endeavor. In order to be considered a “journalist,” a person must:

  • Earn more than half of their income through journalistic enterprises
  • Be independent, non-partisan and not lobby Congress
  • Be supported by advertising or subscriptions
  • Have published work dating back more than 18 months

In light of this definition, never let anyone tell you that a blogger is a journalist. Bloggers after all, are bloggers, unless they meet the requirements outlined above. If they don’t, they are simply just another man on the street about to be targeted for an interview by a local news crew.

The same goes for Wikipedia. There is no way for an encyclopedia junkie to have more facts about a story than an on-the-ground news team. While Wikipedia can be a great aggregate of reported information, I think it’s more valuable after the fact as a research tool. I’d never think to log on to Wikipedia for breaking news. That’s what CNN and all the other news outlets are for. Perhaps that’s just the news junkie in me.

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Weekly #7: Wicked Wikipedia

When I first discovered Wikipedia years ago, I thought the online encyclopedia was rather shady. I relied on the site to find quick information about a topic, but never believed the background I obtained was completely trustworthy. In fact, I always went out of my way to ensure I did not cite research from the source.

I don’t feel that way anymore, however. I now have complete faith in Wikipedia and use it religiously to obtain information on the fly. It couldn’t be more convenient, particularly when you contrast it with an old school, heavy encyclopedia. Who has space to store an entire encyclopedia collection these days, anyway? I certainly couldn’t fit a collection in my 340-square-foot apartment. Well, maybe A-F could squeeze into my closet.

Why go to the library when everything you need is one click away? Type a subject or word into a search engine and one of the top results is likely a Wikipedia page dedicated to the topic. In fact, come to think of it, I never need to venture to the Wikipedia homepage to find relevant articles. They always show up in my search results. Why else is Wikipedia better in my opinion? Articles are continually updated with the latest news and information. Traditional encyclopedias can become out of date the second they hit store shelves.

I’m not the only one who has jumped on the bandwagon. Wikipedia is becoming more and more trusted as a valuable resource among influential audiences. Believe it or not, even judges are citing Wikipedia in their decisions. In fact, a 2005 study found Wikipedia to be as accurate as Britannica. Wikipedia has a strong social concept of neutrality. The organization does not take a stance on controversial topics. It encourages articles to expose both sides of an argument. This is helpful in eliminating one-sided, biased research.

Eighteen percent of Wikipedia articles receive edits from anonymous users. This means that over 80 percent of article edits are made by trusted contributors. Additionally, users continually monitor page updates and peer review articles in real-time. For example, vandalism issues are resolved quickly.

I never fully understood how Wikipedia worked until I watched its founder Jimmy Wales’ infamous 18-minute TED speech about his creation. I highly encourage you to check it out.

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