Revision as of 15:16, 2 December 2010 by Fuzheado
Here's a first stab at an FAQ or About page, based on interview responses I gave to Stinky Journalism
- What is WikiFactCheck?
- In one sentence: WikiFactCheck is a project to provide rapid, crowd-sourced fact checking of news events and information.
- The project builds on Wikipedia's collaborative culture of maintaining a neutral point of view and using verifiable information from reliable sources to provide an augmented news platform through annotation, correlation and visualization.
- Who do you think is the target audience for WikiFactCheck?
- The near term users of WikiFactCheck will likely be "news junkies" or those who do deeper engagement with the news. But eventually, the goal is for WikiFactCheck to be a companion to any and all news reporting or matters of factual record. When there is a debate between political candidates, when there is an interview on Larry King, when pundits on panels appear on Sunday morning news shows.
- Just as Wikipedia has become the popular, default location where people can get a "neutral" treatment of a topic, WikiFactCheck will provide the same neutral ground where the facts, and hopefully the truth, can be sorted out.
- Who do you see as its users and editors?
- On the site there has been a flurry of activity mostly from veteran Wikipedia editors because they are familiar with the wiki culture. Also, the Wikipedia tradition of verifiability, by using reliable sources and sound reasoning maps directly over to WikiFactCheck.
- What do you think the rise in fact-checking services says about the accuracy of the media?
- One of the inspirations for WikiFactCheck was the December 2009 challenge by NYU professor Jay Rosen to the US Sunday Morning news shows. Long recognized for their flawed formula, the weekly news interviews have become a way for politicians to present distorted or misleading statements and statistics, with news organizations unable (or unwilling) to do rebuttals during a live television show.
- While some, such as ABC's Jake Tapper, took up the challenge to do followup fact checks of his guests, others such as David Gregory of NBC Meet The Press rejected the job of fact checking, and to the astonishment of many, leaving it to "the audience." WikiFactCheck is taking up that challenge, by having the audience, Wikipedia-style, do the fact check not just for Sunday Morning talk shows, but for anything in the public sphere for which the truth value needs to be ascertained.
- Who have you worked with in setting up and establishing the site?
- WikiFactCheck is being started in the tradition of other volunteer "open content" projects, such as Linux, Wikipedia and OpenStreetMaps. Anyone who is interested can visit WikiFactCheck.org and contribute to the discussion, start pilot projects, and to try out ideas on how to identify statements, research topics and present the results of the fact checking process. There are academics, students, Wikipedia editors, and simply interested Internet users who have participated so far.
- What are your long-term hopes for the site's use and developement?
- The long term goal is to imagine that any television newscast, web site, or digital media news product would have WikiFactCheck results available simultaneously, so that information consumers could immediately evaluate the truth value of what they are consuming. If you're watching the State of the Union address by the President (or the other party's response afterwards) you would have an overlay on your television screen with the WikiFactCheck results of how accurate the statistics were, or how true one's portrayal of historical events was. Or it might be on your iPad or iPhone, in an application that shows you the fact check results for an event in real time, in a Twitter-like feed.
- The key is, since WikiFactCheck is being built on an open platform, it allows for many different uses of its information. In the future, it would make sense for this to be part of the semantic web, so that long term statistics and reputations could be calculated from previous fact check results.
- Today we typically have to wait a day or so after a news event or an interview to get a fact check from the existing outlets (Media Matters, PolitiFact, Accuracy in Media, et al.), which are either modestly staffed or aligned with a particular political group. This results in fact checking today that is often slow and/or biased. Fortunately these are two things that online collaborative wiki communities can address and solve.
- In 2000, no one could have imagined we would have an encyclopedia that is updated within seconds of events happening -- sporting event results, natural disaster reporting, political scandals and the like. That is what we have, and have come to expect, from Wikipedia. Similarly, the idea of WikiFactCheck being updated quickly enough to fact check events in real time seems out of reach, but it is not far fetched to imagine anymore.
- Bob Woodward famously said, "Journalism is not stenography." With so many hours of cable TV news channels hours airing today, and the preponderance of media outlets, it is a much more complicated media landscape for the news consumer to navigate. WikiFactCheck hopes to provide a community for conscientious editors and researchers who believe that accuracy and accountability are important, and that a dispassionate, neutral evaluation of the facts is critical for the public to understand today's news cycle.