Online Newspapers as Wikis

3 Apr 2007 - 10:32pm
9 years ago
1 reply
949 reads
Chris Marmo

Hi guys,

Long time lurker but first time poster. I'm usually a bit too shy to
post but I'd really love to hear people's opinions on a project I'm
working on at the moment.

The main concept of the project is to foster involvement of the
general public in the daily news cycle, and ultimately to improve the
print edition of newspapers through a combination of reader
participation and traditional journalism. To this end we're adapting
Mediawiki (the stuff that runs wikipedia) for use on a fairly large
European newspaper website.

We are working on things like:

User feedback before printing - ability for the public to discuss,
criticize, or praise the article before it appears in the next days
paper. A good example of this might be "Letters to the Editor" which
are actually commenting on articles in the same edition.

User contributions - which appear on the website first, and if good
enough make it through to the print edition. Readers can vote on
articles (nothing new) but then the final control comes down to the
editors (whose role would be more of an information and quality filter).

Making the publishing process transparent - so journalists actually
write and mould their articles on the wiki for all to see, and
readers and fellow journalists can comment as the article progresses.

Simplifying the article creation and editing process - editors can
put out requests for whole articles or "informants" on a particular
topic, and anyone could respond.

For the purpose of discussion we have a mock-up redesign of the
Washington Post as a Wiki, and we have a PDF detailing our ideas

Washington Post mockup:
PDF Article:
A shorter post:

We've done a lot of work on this, and we feel it's time to throw the
ideas out there for discussion. We'd really like to hear what
everyone thinks.

Do you have any concerns with the concept of using a wiki for what is
supposed to be a "reliable source" of information?

If you've used wikipedia before, what do you think would be the major
hurdles for journalists, readers and editors being able to use it
effectively for the purposes above?

Any responses, comments or suggestions will be greatly appreciate.
We'd like as much feedback as possible!



4 Apr 2007 - 12:53pm

This is a very interesting take on the issue of dwindling deadtree media

My first thought is that this seems to pull back in those users who have
moved to the web by building a connection with the paper. However, it
strikes me that your most active users in this scenario are going to be
those who are very interested in the news anyway. At the same time a wiki
layout might alienate older users with content not connecting to younger
user's online activities.

I would question the long term viability of this tack upwind. "The world is
full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return
to the idealised past." (Robertson Davies 1960 book A Voice from the

Here's an interesting article that I'd say is indicative of the problems
many a paper is facing.

Frankly, I think the writing is on the wall. While this does not solve your
immediate problem its worth remembering that good design and successful
design are not the same thing, there are overriding outside factors. These
factors can be viewed as a constraint, as such they can drive your design in
the right direction.

Given that O'Reilly has his fingers on the pulse of both new and old media I
would look to his stable of online outlets for some ideas on developing
relationships between media consumers and the content.

Finally, I did not see your plans for the paper's format, will there be
links back to the online content? more in depth correspondence? references?

Good luck! what you're trying to do is tough and the loss of good
journalism is to all our detriment.

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