27 February 2008

Let Wikipedia Light The Way

Wikipedia could be a valuable roadmap for journalists researching stories online.

That’s the view of a growing number of news professionals and researchers in the US who are coming round to the idea that the digital encyclopedia is a useful gateway to information.

Among the “converts” is New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston, who says Wikipedia acts as a valuable “source guide” for journalists researching certain subject areas.

Speaking to American Journalism Review (AJR), he provided the example of Wikipedia’s entry on thermodynamics: “It has names of researchers whose books were published by eminent organisations, and you can take that as a quick way to find sources.

“So as a tip sheet, as a road map to reliable sources, Wikipedia seems valuable.”

In addition, a copy editor from Washington state said his newspaper is happy to attribute information to Wikipedia once sources have been checked out.

Jim Thomsen from the Kitsap Sun asserted: “The bottom line is that Wikipedia can be a great tool as a central clearinghouse for contextual information.

“But not a single syllable there should be taken at face value.”

The AJR article - Wikipedia in the Newsroom - features interviews with staff at the LA Times and a leading academic and is well worth a look for an insight into the pros and cons of Wikipedia for reporters.

For more info on David Cay Johnston, why not check out his entry on Wikipedia.



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