Wikitribune: How Jimmy Wales plans to take the fight to fake news

Wikitribune - the plan and theory for Jimmy Wales's outlet to combat fake news

The website will fight the spread of fake news

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Of all the myriad words and phrases coined to describe the political earthquakes of the last 12 months, one stands out more than any other.

No, it's not Brexit, for all the criticism and controversy that particular portmanteau continues to engender in Britain. It's not 'alt-right' either, for all the anger people of this persuasion have caused across the Atlantic.

It's a phrase which straddles both topics, and is interwoven with both of them.

Yep, you guessed it: 'fake news'.

Since Donald Trump coined the phrase to attack a CNN journalist in the wake of an unverified dossier ahead of his inauguration, it's become common parlance - with many people using it against Trump himself. Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of media have rolled out ‘fake news tools’ to flag up questionable content.

Now, the founder of Wikipedia is going that step further – creating an entire news outlet to fight the spread of fake news.

Jimmy Wales unveiled Wikitribune on Tuesday as a publication, owned by the not-for-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which will combine the efforts of a team of journalists with the usual army of community volunteers.

Wales explained in an interview with The Guardian he’d been spurred to create Wikitribune after Trump's key advisor Kellyanne Conway defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's claim that more people had attended his inauguration than Barack Obama's.

Conway coined yet another new phrase, saying Spicer had been peddling 'alternative facts', which many people took simply to mean 'fake news' or just flat-out lies. 

Seeing this, Wales leapt into action and began to plan what would eventually become Wikitribune.

But how exactly will this new vehicle go about its crusade against clickbait, its mission against misinformation? 

Well, here are all the key questioned answered.

What sort of news will be covered?

The organisation says on its website the team will aim to provide “fact-based articles that have a real impact in both local and global events”, stories they say are “easily verified and improved.”

A full spectrum of news, including general news, politics, science and technology, will be included.

Can anyone edit the content?

Yep, in this sense it won't be unlike Wikipedia, where any user of the site can produce content.

However, there are stipulations – users must show their sources, as well as upload any interview transcripts, video or audio files in order to maintain accuracy.

With the sources listed, readers will be able to 'make their own mind's up,' the site claims.

What will the paid journalists do?

Their role will be to fact-check the content and give it their stamp of approval. Unlike Wikipedia, Wikitribune will have someone checking over all the key facts and figures.

How many paid professionals will be involved?

Wales is hoping to hire 10 paid journalists initially.

Will users be able to get involved once articles are up?

Users will be invited to flag up mistakes or disparities to maintain reliability, but any changes made to the article page must receive approval from a member of staff or a community volunteer trusted to do the job.

Will there be any cost?

There will be no subscriptions or fees to be paid, nor will there be advertisers - it will be entirely free to read. 

But will the journalists be paid?

Yes, it is reported that the core team of professional journalists will be paid for their efforts.

So where will the salaries come from?

Well readers will be invited to 'become a supporter' by making monthly contributions of £5-10, and there will be crowd-funding drives among supporters.

In this endeavour, the site promises to be entirely transparent, for it has vowed to publish all of its financials.

When will the site launch?

The plan is to launch Wikitribune as soon as it becomes financially possible. The funding initiative is already underway, so time will tell.

If the site doesn't manage to get enough money to reach its goal of 10 journalists hired, it will refund all money to supporters (minus transaction fees).