Weekly#8: We The Media

Wikipedia is one of the most fascinating developments of the Digital Age. In just over three years of existence it has become a valuable resource and an example of how the grassroots in today’s interconnected world can do extraordinary things. It is a model of participatory media quite unlike any other, and is a natural extension of the Web’s capabilities in the context of journalism.
(Dan Gillmor, We The Media)

Things Garret was talking about Wikipedia last week were amazing.  I was just listening and questioning myself: what if we really put at least one percent of our time that we spend watching TV on something like Wikipedia?

You know, there is this Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting.  In 2005, it went to staff of the Star-Ledger, “for its comprehensive, clear-headed coverage of the resignation of New Jersey’s governor after he announced he was gay and confessed to adultery with a male lover.”  Sounds like Edward R. Murrow vs. Senator Joseph McCarthy in 21st century: a journalist vs. high level official, but with a sex-scandal now.  However, if it was possible to give the Pulitzer Prize to a website or to a group of people coming together and volunteering their time and efforts, I would give it to Wikipedia for covering something like London bombings.  No, I would give it to ordinary enthusiasts like Morwen who put out the story in 18 minutes and those hundreds of people correcting and adding more information later.

Seriously, why not? Yes, I do dare to say what hundreds of people did covering those events is more important than a sex-scandal of the governor.  It sounds like a little bit more than a journalist’s trying to look under the blanket of the high-level official.  Because for me it is about people, about this tremendous (Garret’s favorite word, btw) peer production for other people.  Not for sensation, not for money and not even for a prize.  As Clay Shirky said in Here Comes Everybody, it is when love makes people to bake a cake and money motivates people to make an encyclopedia; now though, people can do big things for love.  I think this enthusiasm, maybe love and participation is what I like about Wiki.  To be more exactly, I like that We Are the Media in Wiki.

The other issue is creditability.  Let’s say in 1963, there were so few news sources that people could immediately access except for television and radio around breaking news.  What was actually left for people rather than crying together with Walter Cronkie while he delivered news about the assassination of President Kennedy?  Even if people really wanted to, they were forced to wait for other updates on TV and radio, and many hours later on newspapers.  Thus, limited number of mass media as well as people’s limited influence to the media decreased chances for the leak of the wrong information.  Unlike the first report on Wiki by Morwen, in which majority of the information was misleading; however, corrected very soon.  But still, Wikipedia is not the first source I address while reading about breaking news, it is more additional source to my search on Internet at that time. There is this fine line about trusting traditional news sources such as CNN more than Wiki that I still cannot explain.


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