Jimmy Wales’ WikiTribune will fight the fake news with Wiki-style Journalism

Jimmy Wales of Wikimedia Foundation poses for a portrait on July 28, 2010 in San Francisco. (Lane Hartwell)

Fake news is a valid concern for all citizens of the society and this was proved last year before the elections when many fake news stories about Trump, the Pope, and other topics were shared and believed by millions over social networking sites.


Unlike traditional media which we paid for earlier and respected enough to believe, social networking sites are breeding grounds for untrustworthy news reporting and sources. Its core business model relies on advertisers paying for it, which they only do if the site is getting enough visitors, hence giving birth to fake click bait sensational news stories.


Social media audiences which are accustomed to free everything, thoroughly endorse such news without ever evaluating its credibility. And this is very dangerous.


Jimmy Wales, the Co-founder of Wikipedia wishes to tackle this surging problem in his own way through WikiTribune. This journalism endeavor will be accessible for free by everyone and will employ crowdfunding to bring professional reporters on its payroll. These experienced professionals will work alongside citizen journalists who will be able to sub-edit articles, fact-check on reports and give the site suggestions for topics to pursue.


Wales revealed that it will be the very first time that professional reporters and citizen journalists will be working in conjunction with each other writing news as it happens, editing stories as they move further, all the while being backed by a community of fact checkers always at work.


The source will entirely depend on donations from persons who believe in the mission and the journalism that it will be doing. Along with traditional news like the UK and international politics, the site will also cover science, technology and particular subjects chosen by its subscribers.


Communities interested in a certain topic, for example, the bitcoin users and dealers, can invest in a journalist that can cover news entirely in that field as it’s quite a happening and newsworthy arena, always buzzing with new developments.


Articles for WikiTribune will contain in-depth sourcing and linking to entire transcripts, along with audio and video recording of interviews. Reader submissions will be posted only after being approved by a full-time editor. These two measures are going to create a new culture of reporting news that is both accurate and transparent making the best use of seasoned reporters and the enthusiastic fact checking, news gathering crowd. However controlling such a big collection of people will be no less than a task itself.


Nonetheless, Wales is positive, because when he came up with the idea for Wikipedia not many people thought that it will work. And although the service is nowhere near perfect, it has successfully, for the most part, evaded the fake news situation. What he hopes is that the culture which Wikipedia’s editors are a part of can now be rooted at WikiTribune where it will blossom in the same manner.


The site’s business model will help, to some extent, in making sure that those values are upheld as there will be no advertiser funding so the site will not need click-bait type stories that afflicted the news reporting culture and shattered the audiences’ trust.


WikiTribune is not the only site though that’s trying to address the rampant fake news situation. Another technology company that is investing efforts to curb the problem is YouTube which is conducting workshops in the UK to teach teens about spotting fake news stories. In addition to that, Google is also giving more visibility to fact checkers like Snopes and PolitiFact in its search results.


Only recently Facebook placed full-page ads in German Newspapers with fact-checking tips for the common reader. While these actions are noteworthy, despite them, the problem persists.


Political leaders in the UK are inquiring into the rise of false news and many British newspapers have demanded a deeper exploration of the role that Google and Facebook have in the circulation of such stories. While Wales might think that a better funded, innovatively organized newsroom may be the ultimate answer to the problem, we will wait to see if anything changes on the larger scale.