Participatory Journalism: The Essence of Wikipedia

Wiki wiki — Hawaiian for “quick” — is at the root of Wikipedia, a encyclopedia website where any page can be edited by users with the simple click of an “edit this page” button.

Andrew Lih, assistant professor at Hong Kong University, compared the different levels of participation between web sites, web logs and “wikis” in a panel Saturday on journalism and the “wired world.”

Wikis have a high level of participation because they are available to anonymous users as well as those who are registered, Lih writes in his paper “Wikipedia as Participatory Journalism: Reliable Sources?” during the International Symposium on Online Symposium.

The theme of participatory journalism is evident in the Neutral Point of View (NPOV) that many of the Wikipedia users have adopted. NPOV attempts to present ideas and facts in a fashion similar to journalism. Participatory journalism is the act of citizens or groups playing active roles in the process of collecting, reporting and analyzing information. This is the essence of Wikipedia.

“There was actually a community debate (at the Wikipedia site) on whether to name the accuser in the Kobe Bryant case,” said Lih.

While Wikipedia users do not consider what they do journalism or call themselves journalists, they have adopted certain journalistic principles, such as sticking to the facts and avoiding the word “terrorism” (mimicking Reuters), Lih said.

Among the news outlets that have cited Wikipedia is the Houston Chronicle. Lih thinks that further citations in the press can lead to improvement.

Wikipedia, which is more popular than or, contains information too old to be rehashed in the news and too new to be in the history books, Lih said. He dubbed Wikipedia a new “first” draft or “working” draft of history.

ISOJ 2004: Reconsidering Journalism, from Knight Center on Vimeo.