Wikipedia for Journalists

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Hi there Journalist! Welcome to Wikipedia!

You’ve likely been here before, but now it's time you start using Wikipedia in ways that you have never used it before to make your storytelling and journalism better!

We know you’ve heard the the criticisms:

Donna Shaw speaks about Wikipedia

“Anyone can edit Wikipedia!” “There is so much false information on there!” “It's totally unreliable!”

Wikimedia foundation has said itself:

"We do not expect you to trust us. It is in the nature of an ever-changing work like Wikipedia that, while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish."

We’ve talked to journalists themselves and they had much of the same things to say: We don't use Wikipedia as a source. People say that Wikipedia is amazing when we want to validate information, and double check names or figures, but when it comes to news and citing it, Wikipedia can be be highly classified as an invalid source of information. Professor Donna Shaw in the video to the right says that Wikipedia can be a great place for research and an initial source of information, but she tells her students not to cite it. Part of this problem is because anyone can edit and add information to Wikipedia, and it has a lot of references.

While we understand their concerns, we believe, that armed with the knowledge and resources provided to you in this article, you will be able to use Wikipedia to enhance the journalism that you create. Wikipedia is an amazing resource!

Students talk about wikipedia

Let's start with the basics:[edit]

Active and very active Wikipedians, as of 2015
  • The English Wikipedia currently has 51,126 users who have registered a username. Only a minority of users contribute regularly (65 have edited in the last 30 days), and only a minority of those contributors participate in community discussions. An unknown but relatively large number of unregistered Wikipedians also contribute to the site.
  • There are some ground rules that all wikipedia editors must follow, and if they do not follow them, the community will respond to their edits on the talk pages.

As a rule, All Wikipedians:[edit]

How can I tell if an article is reliable?[edit]

Generally speaking, good articles include:[edit]

  • A lead section of an article that has an accurate overview
  • Coverage is neutral and balanced and cites reliable sources
  • It is edited by multiple and diverse sources
  • The article is in a high article class and has a high rating on the talk pages
  • Features images, sections, infoboxes, charts, and graphs for a complete look at the topic

Warning signs for low-quality articles include:[edit]

  • Banners warning of low quality in the top section of the article
  • Absence of blue colored links and frequent in-line citations
  • Style mismatch - dates, formatting, style of writing seems out of place
  • "Peacock terms" tip off PR speak - words like prestigious, superior, unprecedented
  • Protected Status - is there a lock icon in upper right to prevent editing? Indication of conflict or controversy (see the talk page)
  • Obvious vandalism - obscenities, outrageous numbers or statements or typos

Who edits articles and how do I interact with them?[edit]

  • People can contribute to Wikipedia anonymously.
  • They can also be registered. You should register!
  • But sometimes, people make multiple accountsto create the illusion that many people have come to a consensus on a topic, or to hide the fact that they have contributed the large majority of the article.
  • Sometimes when one person makes many edits on an article, and when that article is a business or other organization, this might be a biased PR professional.
  • This conflict of interest is against Wikipedia’s key principles, and against a journalist’s commitment to the truth.
  • At this point it is important to look at the article’s page historyin order to determine what kinds of edits the user has made.
  • If you ever want to interact with a user, go to their user page and add a message on their talk page portion of their user page.

How to report breaking news:[edit]

  • learn about breaking news
  • Wikipedia is quick, and has in depth stories. It might not be the most accurate source of information initially, but it can be a click away from telling you about what's happening in the world.
  • A number of references are attached to the story you are reading, so you can verify the information on Wikipedia by looking at the references.
  • Stories come from all over the world, Wikipedia can gather all the information you want, in other languages too, so Wikipedia can be a good place to look for more information than what you get in other media sites.

Other tools to use through Wikipedia[edit]

  • There are many tools that Wikipedia has to make your research even more effective.
  • Wikiblame searches for given text in versions of article.
  • Article Blamer similar to WikiBlame, identifies revisions that added given text .
  • If you have zoned in on one user you may want to use User Contribution Search to see that user's contributions.
  • If you are focusing on one page's history the page history statistics tool would be helpful.
  • You can view a Wikipedia page's stats (how many views it has received over 30, 60 and 90 days) through the "View history" tab at the top right of the page. Then hit "Page view statistics."

How to cite Wikipedia:[edit]

Wikimedia Foundation's Samantha Lien says that it is difficult to know how people use Wikipedia. There is no way of telling who looks into the wiki pages and what do they use it for, and how they use the information. But Wikipedia has been a rich source of information especially for historical articles and museum related articles. Wikipedia itself says that we have to be wary about citing its pages. But here are a few useful tips:

  • A special citation tool is available to assist you. On the left of every article, there is a "Cite this page" link. Clicking it will bring you to a listing of relevant information, as well as automatically generated citations in several styles. Note that it is still your responsibility to ensure the citation meets all requirements.
  • You should not cite any particular author or authors for a Wikipedia article, in general. Wikipedia is collaboratively written. However, if you do need to find the list of authors of a particular article, you can check the Page history. Authors are listed only by IP address or chosen user name; you normally cannot verify and often cannot even guess at their identities.
  • Your citation should normally list both the article title and Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, much as you would for an article in a paper publication. Every article should be a separate citation.
  • Most citation styles will likely require the full article URL. You can click "Permanent link" in the toolbox at the left of this page. This lets the URL include a unique identifier such that you can tie your reference back to the exact version of the article you are referencing. It may or may not be desirable to adopt this approach, depending upon the context of your reference. This lets you show what you saw and ignore any changes made after you accessed the page. If greater brevity is desired, you can use the regular URL, or optionally just the site URL (e.g. for an English article), because an article URL can be inferred from an article title.
  • The citation style may request the full date and time of the article revision you are using. If you use the permanent link feature, this may not be necessary. However, the date and time of the last revision can be found at the bottom of every page (above the copyright notice).