Submissions:2019/Fighting Fake News with Real Information: Newspapers on Wikipedia

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This submission has been noted and is pending review for WikiConference North America 2019.


Fighting Fake News with Real Information: Newspapers on Wikipedia


Reliability of Information

Type of session:



Wikipedia is the one major, broadly participatory Internet platform whose design tends to counter "fake news." Evaluation of the quality of information sources is at the core of Wikipedia's approach; platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are finding that they need to retrofit source evaluation into products that fundamentally emphasize sharing over deliberation.

That's a key premise that prompted digital polarization and media literacy expert Mike Caulfield to start WikiProject Newspapers, which aimed to substantially expand Wikipedia's coverage of notable local newspapers in the United States from June to December 2018. Recent research has suggested that information consumers are generally willing to do 90 seconds or so of research into the quality of a publication, if information is readily available; but many newspapers are difficult to research. In many cases, multiple decades of reporting have earned reviews from other newspapers, academic and government entities, and statewide prizes; but much of that information is obscured paywalls or other obstacles that make it challenging to discover. By summarizing such information into Wikipedia articles -- even very short ones -- Wikipedia editors can provide a resource that is republished in Google Knowledge Graph boxes, on Facebook pages, and elsewhere, helping numerous consumers of news evaluate the reliability of what they're reading.

This project was primarily defined by its content generation goal, but we were also successful in engaging new Wikipedia editors, and helping existing editors deepen their engagement with Wikipedia. To that end, Mike recruited a charitable sponsor who donated a $25 "bounty" to the charity "Room to Read" for each qualifying submission. He also recruited several university instructors, who assigned their students to create Wikipedia articles, and submitted them for review and/or expansion by more experienced Wikipedia editors.

In this talk, I will present on the outcomes of the project in terms of Wikipedia content generation and user recruitment and retention. Another outcome was a framework for tracking the progress of a campaign like this; a separate WikiConference proposal, Pacetrack: A Tool for Slick and Simple Wikipedia Campaigns, will address that effort.

Specific points will include:

  • Notability: Our efforts to develop a notability guideline specific to newspapers.
  • Research resources: How we went about curating research resources (such as online books about local newspapers) for use by project participants.
  • WikiProject insights: What we learned about running a WikiProject, including approaches to measuring and reporting success, and opportunities to collaborate with other projects.
  • Wikidata: How we approached Wikidata as an important offshoot of this Wikipedia-focused project.
  • Instructional materials: How we presented Wikipedia tasks to new contributors.
  • Relevant research: How research into media literacy and Wikipedia can inform a project like ours.

If a time slot longer than 30 minutes is available, we will invite participants to discuss how to structure WikiProjects which aim to rapidly generate content and/or engage new contributors in useful tasks. We will capture our notes and share them back in a Wikipedia project page, blog post, or similar.

Project page: Wikipedia:WikiProject Newspapers

I submitted this to Wiki Conference NA last year, but was unable to attend: Submissions:2018/Fighting Fake News with Real Information: WikiProject Newspapers

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

Pete Forsyth

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:


Affiliated organization(s):

Wiki Strategies

Estimated time:

30 minutes

Preferred room size:

50 people

Special requests:

Stool or chair for presenter (back problems)

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:

Yes, but at a smaller scale, and prior to the project's conclusion (lightning talks and unconference sessions at Wikicite 2018). I have presented more generally on Wikipedia and journalism at a number of conferences for more than a decade.

If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)

Yes (I'd be especially open to repurposing it for a roundtable discussion on Wikipedia content sprints)