Monday, November 3, 2008

Democratic Journalism

The current Wikinews logoImage via WikipediaThis week I've been looking into techniques that social studies teachers can use to empower students and give them a voice. As I've been thinking upon this and reading about this I realized that there is another way one can empower a student: not by giving them an individual voice but by having them become part of something bigger than themselves. Now that isn't to say that we shouldn't give students a voice, but I do think we can supplement the individual soap box with a democratization of voice, or citizen writing.

In many ways, Wikinews can describe this better than me. Here is what they have to say about how they work and what democratic journalism is:

Citizen journalism is a growing phenomenon of grassroots participation in the media. Wikinews, a sister project to the highly successful Wikipedia, gives you the chance to be both writer and editor of the news you think should have a wider audience.

Wikinews has a strict neutral point of view policy, rigorously enforced by its users. It strives to meet traditional reporting standards and all reports must be fully sourced. This makes it an ideal training ground: here you won't be rewriting press releases or covering the local flower show but can wade straight into breaking scandal on a world level with an audience of thousands.

One thing you won't get on Wikinews is a byline. Your work could be ruthlessly re-edited and your reward will be satisfaction in a good story rather than cash. But your work will be freely available to anyone in the world with a computer, you won't be exploited by a commercial organisation selling news like peas and you will be working towards telling the truth as you see it with a team of thousands.

So if you don't get a byline, what do you get? Well, these skills won't do your career prospects any harm:

* news writing
* high standards to fulfil of source recording and note taking for original reporting
* proof reading and copy editing
* factchecking
* direct involvement in media production processes
* writing and enforcing high standards of neutrality in reporting
* teamwork with a wide range of contributors worldwide in a consensual environment
* strategy and policy development for an international media outlet
* basic programming syntax of a widely used online system

Starting at Wikinews is easy. Just create an account and a community member will give you some tips - or if you can't wait that long: hit edit and get going.


the Wikinews community

I'm a historian so much of my work is individualistic and argumentative in nature. However I am more and more drawn to ideas such as this, ideas that if we all pitch in a little bit then we can all reap great benefits. I have not yet contributed to WikiNews, but I would encourage others and certainly will encourage my students to contribute to any of the WikiMedia projects, because I believe that such projects are great examples of democracy and in a way civic duty, and also are immensely satisfying.

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