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Weekly #8: Position Unchanged

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After our discussion during Class 9, my position on Wikipedia remains unchanged. I still think it’s a great initial source for all topics, including breaking news. Two things in particular stuck out to me from Garrett’s lecture:

  1. Wikipedia values both the crowd and the community.
  2. Journalism is not so much a profession as it is an activity, and that notion is consistent with the interpretation of the First Amendment.

When it comes to breaking news, I find that the traditional media outlet rarely has the facts totally correct in the first hours of the event. Neither does Wikipedia, for that matter. However, what Wikipedia does have that a media outlet doesn’t is the collective wisdom of people who have the common purpose of wanting to spread information as it unfolds. And the amount of contributors can be well into the hundreds within an hour, some of whom are on the ground witnessing the event first hand. These early contributors tend to belong to the crowd, and not each contributor is equally engaged or factually accurate. That’s not a problem, however, because soon the community members of Wikipedia take over. They edit the facts, put them in chronological order, and add visuals to produce systematic coverage of a news event. These are the superusers who are dedicated to making sure the facts are not only accurate but also tell a complete story. They are natural, truth-seeking storytellers.

That same description could be ascribed to journalists. Their professionalism is dependent upon the verifiability of the facts they present in their news stories. So if Wikipedia contributors, specifically the dedicated superusers that make up the community, rely upon the same verification process for news entries, are they not considered journalists too? Even those in the crowd reporting the facts as they receive them for breaking news are acting as journalists. Garrett’s point that the Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment in a way that is consistent with the argument that we can all be journalists was well argued. And it is proven true through Wikipedia every day.

I suppose the next logical question is, should we all be journalists even if we can? I enjoy reading the systematic coverage of a news event on Wikipedia because not only have community members verified the facts, but they have also edited the page and made it a comprehensive story. Professional journalists have the training to create a grammatically correct and engaging story. I’d say that the community members of Wikipedia have this same capability and desire. And they aren’t even paid! So yes, Wikipedia is just as credible as a traditional media outlet, if not more given the multiple sources cited per page.

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