Posts Tagged Journalist
By Eric Butticaz
I’ll start with a quick explanation about the importance of sources for journalists. I’ll then explain why is Wikipedia interesting, how you could use it as a journalist and which points you should care about when using it.
Why are sources important to journalists?
A large part of the journalist’s credibility is built over his usage of reliable sources. Therefore, as journalists we have to be careful in our use of sources.
Actually, online sources have become more and more useful for journalists, because lots of information and facts are quickly published, without any limitation due to size or complexity of information. It can be easily illustrated by pictures or schemes and linked to many other web resources. But a side effect of the use of online sources is that they are easy alterable. It is very easy to intervene on an article and to change it without anybody noticing it.
Stating you have an article to write on a topic you don’t have a clue about, how do you start to collect information about it? Is it still useful to take a trip to the next library or to investigate in your newspapers’ archives, or the modern tools like Internet and online resources can be a good starting point?
The sum of information collected on the participative online encyclopedia Wikipedia seems to be an interesting tool. It is issued in many different languages (list of all Wikipedias in different languages) and contains articles on almost every subject you could think about.
Does it mean that I can spare time and collect information directly from Wikipedia without needing to check them?
I don’t think so, because as soon as I think about Wikipedia, my former teaching is coming back to the surface…
What I was told not to do…
During my former academic formation, I have been strictly warned against using Wikipedia in academic work. Nowadays, in the universities, usage of Wikipedia as a source for students is mostly not recommended, and even sometimes forbidden.
What is often mentioned against the use of Wikipedia in an academic context is anonymity of contributors, (hidden) agenda behind the writing of specific articles, a no more growing number of contributors, or the fact that well informed contributors could be silenced. (The Top 10 Reasons Students Cannot Cite or Rely on Wikipedia lists the top 10 reasons and provides external links to explain in more details the precautions to take before using Wikipedia in academic context.)
Despite the warning against Wikipedia in academic context, let’s look closer into a journalistic point of view.
… and what I could do as a journalist…
I think it is possible to use Wikipedia as a interesting resource as a journalist, but then, it is necessary to be cautious ! I’ll discuss here four important points, 1) the information I need, 2) the agenda behind the article, 3) the discussion about the article and finally 4) if Wikipedia is up-to-date.
1) What information do I need?
First of all, I need to know what I am looking for. Am I just looking for general information about a context, a country or am I searching precise data about population or national budget?
Wikipedia may help you to get a clue about a new subject you have to talk or write about. It could also be helpful to find external references about it because the contributors are requested to cite the sources they use as they write an article on Wikipedia. If you are looking for up-to-date data, it is more interesting to get them on primary sources as governments or national offices (like the Swiss Statistics Office).
2) Is there an agenda behind the article?
A Wikipedia article is supposed to be written on a neutral point of view, containing no original research (i.e. research that is not published or supported by other reliable sources) and being verifiable (i.e. every reader should be able to check the informations in the article). These three points are the basis of the article writing policy on Wikipedia, but it doesn’t avoid vandalism in the articles or approximations. Editors can try to bias their point of view to support their own opinion.
It’s also possible to intervene on an article in order to improve the image of its subject, whether a person or a brand.
- Some recent examples could be evoked. The article about Jean-Pierre Pernaut, the well-known news presenter of the “Journal de 13h” on the French TF1, has been modified many times, sometimes on a rather rough manner, in order to enhance his image.
- The France 2 television program “Envoyé Spécial” revealed on the 8th of November 2012 that an article has been modified by an e-reputation society, working according to the rules of Wikipedia, making the changes not easily noticeable. After a few hours, the Wikipedia community discovered that it was the article about Moncef Belkhayat, a Moroccan politician.
(The part about the modification of Wikipedia starts at 20:00)
Be careful when you use Wikipedia, whether as a journalist or as a simple curious person. You cannot assume directly that the article you read is written without a specific agenda!
3) Has the article been discussed?
Wikipedia, based on collaborative editing, has a dedicated interface for the revision of articles, where discussion can take place about the modifications. On this page, it is also possible to see who the contributors are (at least by pseudonyms), and to see if they made many additions or corrections on the Wikipedia article.
An article which has almost not been discussed is not more credible. In facts, fewer contributors tend to offer fewer points of view and a bigger possibility of bias in the article.
4) Is Wikipedia always up-to-date?
The informations in the article may not be up-to-date! Using the Revision history allows you to see when the last modifications occurred. The older they are, the more the informations may no be up-to-date! Therefore, be careful before using any data. Always cross-check the informations you may use further with external sources.
Using Wikipedia is not a mortal sin, as long as you care when using it! Always think that Wikipedia should have a neutral point of view, but that it is not always the fact!
As a last word, let’s introduce Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, speaking about Wikipedia for journalists :
“Wikipedia is not to use as a citation, but is a perfect tool to enter a new subject.”
- And you, would you dare to cite Wikipedia in an article?
- Do you think you are able to understand how the discussion page is working?
Further reading on Wikipedia and journalism :
- What Wikipedia is not.
- A sociology student also pointed out in 2009 that some modifications of Wikipedia can stay long enough to be used by journalists in a hurry to write an article about some celebrity’s death, in this case the death of Maurice Jarre, a composer of film musics, and using quotes from Wikipedia without checking the source. Read more about it.
- Usage of Wikipedia banned at the AFP in London. Read more about it.
Neuchâtel, a more and more populated city
Every year, December doesn’t only rhyme with Christmas, but also with demography. It’s in fact at the end of this month that the FSO will reveal the 2011 Swiss demography evolution. I’m writing about it because since 2003 the commune of Neuchâtel is witnessing a population renewal. Even if we talk here of a 4%- growth in less than ten years, this percentage represent no less than 1500 inhabitants for our own commune. Diverse sectors will have to adapt to this continual growth.
The public transport: a game ahead
For the Neuchâtel public transport (TN), the city bus network is most affected by this population’s augmentation. “We noticed a large and progressive increase of passengers”, explain Mrs Jeanne Huessli, in charge of the communication department of this society. “By summer 2012, ten news buses will be put into circulation on the biggest lines to absorb the users’ increasing flux.” Cost of this operation: almost 15 million CHF including the bus driver’s wage. “That might seem a lot, but this investment should be profitable until 2017.”
Needless to say, this society didn’t wait the 2011 FSO report to take the bull by the horns and react consequently. Which proves nothing is impossible. So the Bienne – Lausanne train passengers might hope the SBB will take example on the Neuchâtel public transport and put an end to passengers’ suffering during rush hours.
After reading this article I wrote, you’re probably asking yourself what is the link with our initial question: “are bloggers journalists?” In reality, everything! In order to address the question, I needed initially to act as a blogger. So I wrote an article on a theme any ordinary blogger would be interested in.
But the problem is…my article is false. Mrs Huessli doesn’t exist and- I invented all of what she said. This is the key challenge of a blog post. One is never sure what is true and what is wrong. Of course with my article it was enough to search the name Jeanne Huessli on Google to discover the hoax. But what if I used the real name of the communication department person? It would have been more difficult to find the truth without a phone call to the TN.
What I wanted to prove is that nothing prevents someone from posting a lie. We always need to keep that in mind. Of course what I wrote is under no circumstances journalism.
But what is journalism? Answering this question will allow us to determine if yes or no bloggers are part of it. A journalist produces information. Verified and tallied information which will be transmitted to the lector. To be a journalist isn’t “write to write”, but “write to inform”, to explain, to comment or analyse. A journalist must follow a ethical charter, sign his article with his real name and work under the supervision of his editor. Of course these rules might be breached of and sometimes journalists might bend the rules and values of their job, but in absolute terms, journalism can’t be defined with such cases.
On the other hand, what’s a blogger? Blogs – contrary to a newsroom – are open to everybody. Bloggers often publish under a pseudonym – there’s no way to find the real source – and no ethical rules or moderator frames what is published. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible for a blogger to publish something relevant or completely journalistic. But there’s no way to control.
A lot of journalists and experts have blogs and publish relevant information about what they see with a freer style like for example Jean-Dominique Merchet, David Medioni or the Online Journalism Blog. The blog can be an extension of a newspaper like the New York Times blog Lens on which press photography are published. We have also blog for “citizen journalist” like the Bondy Blog inspired by OhmyNews – a Korean website where “every citizen is a reporter”. But the blog is also a place where somebody is able to express himself, his opinion, and his moods without any other desire than write about his feelings.
Finally “Are bloggers journalists?” is a wrong question. Because bloggers are bloggers and journalists are journalists. Like the chameleon changed his colour according to his environment, the blogger can, just for the time of a post, be a journalist, a humourist, a politician, a cook or anything else. They are no rules and no generalizations to be made. For the same reason we can’t pretend that strangers are criminals, we can’t affirm that bloggers are journalists.
A lot of different Smartphones exist on the market, but only two truly stand out: the Blackberry and the iPhone. The aficionados of both brands keep claiming one or the other is best, so I decided to take a closer look at both phones and decide for myself.
The questions I want to answer today are: “which phone is better for what purpose? And as future journalists which one should we own?”
First of all, one quick information, the Blackberry was created with business use in mind, the iPhone for a personnel use. Even though today the genres are mixing and people use Blackberry for personnel use, and business men might use the iPhone for work. It is clear that when the phones were created, they were designed to fit certain expectations depending on the consumers they were targeted for.
A Blackberry configured with Microsoft Exchange retrieves automatically new emails, without the user having to do anything, the iPhone does not. With a Blackberry, as soon as a message is sent it is downloaded immediately and the owner of the phone gets a warning that he or she has a new message. The iPhone on the other hand retrieves new information at most every 15 minutes and only from one inbox at a time, so it needs a regular check to see if anything new was sent, making email operation less effective on an iPhone.
The Blackberry clearly dominates the mobile email category
The iPhone battery has a shorter life because it is used for more tasks that require a lot of energy, like web browsing or gaming. Plus it does not help the battery life of the phone if the user has to constantly check and open his or her email account to make sure nothing new was sent. The battery problem makes the phone less reliable because the user needs to make sure he will be able to recharge his phone anywhere he goes.
On this department, the Blackberry wins
Application wise, no comparison can be made, the iPhone is much better and more furnished as countless applications and games exist for the user. Applications have been the highlight of the brand since its creation. There are thousands of them existing. People can even create their own. Obviously some are useless but many other facilitate every days life. In comparison the Blackberry apps seems very poor.
The iPhone wins this one
The operating system of the iPhone is the most technologically advanced and has a better graphical interface than the Blackberry. The iPhone screen is bigger so navigating on the web and watching videos is best on it, the typing is not easier as the virtual keyboard can sometimes be hard to handle, but it is just as hard as the small blackberry keys.
The iPhone is also very interactive, mostly because of its touch screen and motion sensibility. The user can navigate online very easily because everything flows naturally. All the operations the phone does are much more intuitive than with the Blackberry.
One advantage for the Blackberry is that it synchronizes new information automatically with the WIFI. When a user makes changes in his calendar or in his contact list for example, changes appear automatically. The iPhone does not synchronize information changes from one application to another.
Security wise, the Blackberry is considered as one of the most secured phones for storing and transmitting data, which is an important guarantee for professionals
Another important point for the Blackberry is that all the Office documents can be opened but more importantly edited with the phone. On the iPhone they can only be opened.
We can call it deuce for this part, both phones have their technical advantages.
The Blackberry seems to be better for business and advanced professional use because it is a small desktop extension and you can basically do anything you would normally do on a laptop.
If you are a business man it seems that the iPhone is lacking some vital functions to be a valid choice. Even if the designers always try to add better application to make the phone more professional, Blackberry is still ahead.
On the other hand, the iPhone is a success in large audiences mostly used for personnel purposes because it is seen as more innovative, interactive and fun
The iPhone is recommended for a personnel use and the blackberry as an extension of the professional environment. Blackberry wins for business use and security, iPhone for personal use and innovations. But when it comes down to functioning in the business world and having a practical phone, Blackberry wins.
As for a journalist it is difficult to decide which phone to own. I guess it depends on what the person wants to do with his or her phone and what he or she does on a daily basis. If the person spends most of the day inside and in meetings he might want to take a Blackberry, easier to manage for professional purposes. But then if the person is an aspiring journalist spending its entire day running from one side to another and navigating on the web to search for the latest news, then an iPhone is fit for him.
Posted by matthieuhenguely in Uncategorized on January 10, 2011
First of all, in order to judge if Wikipedia is credible for journalists, I wanted to have the point of view of the different actors of the domain. That is to say Wikipedia’s team, people from the academic world, journalists and also media enterprises. Another thing that I wanted to find before making a judgement is how accurate is Wikipedia, compared to other encyclopaedia.
This questions guided my research. I’ve used some search engines and – Internet is magical! – I’ve found some websites that have given me responses. Here are my conclusions.
Wikipedia is not a credible source for academic working and journalism. Wikipedia itself on its own website, the Reuters agency in a handbook produce for its journalists and most people in academic or media worlds, as this French academic website proclaimed as a journalism world observatory, arrive to this conclusion. The principal problem is that Wikipedia doesn’t mention enough its sources.
BUT: Wikipedia is as accurate as other encyclopaedia – revues as Nature and Stern have made some studies that prove this point – and in most of the cases faster as its opposites. Moreover, articles are most of the time made by many users and by this way, more true, as an academic study says. Studies (the three already mentioned) prove that most of wiki information is right.
For those reasons, Wikipedia is a good starting point for any research made by journalists. You can use this site but you have to take the information more carefully than normally, sources aren’t all the time clear and sure on a platform as Wikipedia.
My conclusion: Wikipedia is a help during the search process, nothing more.