2019/Grants/News on Wiki, Phase Two
News on Wiki, Phase Two
Pete Forsyth and Sherry Antoine
Type of project:
Research + Output
What is your idea?
The News On Wiki (NOW) campaign, Phase Two aims to improve the public’s access to information about credible news publishers. In Phase One of this campaign (2018), we demonstrated that by improving wiki content, we could improve Google Knowledge Panels and other search engine results pages (SERPs) for local news sources. We rallied both new and veteran Wikimedians to build wiki content. We reported on this process at the WikiCite (2018) and WikiConference North America (2019) conferences.
In this second phase, we will focus on Wikipedia and Wikidata content for:
- Black-owned U.S. newspapers,
- Newspapers based in Washington State, and
- Newspapers based in/focused on the Caribbean.
We will build on the success of Phase One, and generate a clear roadmap to an expanded version of this campaign.
The present COVID-19 pandemic has raised the stakes for credibility of news outlets, with great quantities of misinformation being spread on social media and throughout the information ecosystem via less-than-credible sources.
Additionally, the pandemic is impacting the news industry, with numerous newspapers laying off staff, adjusting their product offerings and delivery options, and in some cases going out of business.
For our project, there is a silver lining: this churn in the industry results in increased coverage of news outlets by their peers. Such news stories are necessary to establish sufficient notability to start a Wikipedia article, and wiki editors can use them to verify and support facts. Outside of an unusual event like a pandemic, such coverage can be scarce; we aim to capture these source materials for the benefit of Wikipedia while they are still fresh.
Why is it important?
In our era of information overload, the general public often can struggle to make accurate judgments about the basic credibility of news sources. Bad actors have leveraged this situation to serve narrow interests, including profit and political ends; in the most egregious cases, a malevolent webmaster "spoofs" an established, trusted newspaper (e.g. the "Denver Guardian" or the "Baltimore Gazette"), for the sole purpose of spreading a single false story. In this historical moment, the public is in particular need of resources to quickly and decisively identify such "fake" sources of news, to slow their spread through social and traditional media. Some choose to create new information resources to meet this need; we believe that strengthening Wikipedia and Wikidata is a more efficient and effective approach. By bolstering existing resources that are already influential, we eliminate the need to design, validate, implement, and publicize a new resource.
In recent studies,, a group of scholars at Wellesley College demonstrated that Wikipedia content strongly influences web search results. Specifically, the existence of Wikipedia content determines whether or not a Knowledge Panel is displayed. Because individuals often search the web to quickly evaluate an unfamiliar news source, Wikipedia content can strongly influence the reputation of news sources. The paper "highlights the incredible value that Wikipedia provides ... for helping readers assess the credibility of news sources," and it discusses Phase One of NOW.
Furthermore, Wikidata increasingly plays a role in search engine results.
This vetted connection between wiki content and public media literacy presents an extraordinary opportunity: Wikipedians and news literacy advocates can directly improve the public's ability to distinguish good from bad sources by editing Wikipedia and Wikidata.
Our News on Wiki campaign, appropriately abbreviated "NOW," facilitates and encourages this activity, thereby benefiting the public; and in the process, we build information literacy and facilitate social networking among our participants and followers, which ensures that our impact is ongoing.
The time for NOW, we like to say, is now.
Is your project already in progress?
Yes. Phase One, completed in 2018 and reported at WikiConference North America in 2019, demonstrated the idea's potential, generated many new and improved articles, built awareness and support among key stakeholders, and documented effective interventions.
That effort has proven self-sustaining, up to a point: volunteers have continued the work we began. With a funded Phase Two, we can maximize the potential of the efforts underway, the lessons we have already learned, and the resources we have already created. We aim to take another strong step toward documenting all notable news outlets on Wikipedia and Wikidata.
How is it relevant to credibility and Wikipedia? (max 500 words)
As demonstrated by the research cited above, Wikipedia already plays a strong role in helping its diverse audience evaluate the authenticity and credibility of news publications. This campaign builds on that strength by increasing the number of credible publications for which Wikipedia, and subsequently search engines like Google, will return meaningful results.
This campaign will:
- build content used by the general public to evaluate the credibility of news sources.
- reinforce the role of Wikipedia and Wikidata in news documenting credibility.
- expand capacity within the Wikimedia community for furthering this work, by documenting useful source materials and providing instructions on WikiProject pages and elsewhere.
- cultivate news organizations, professional journalism societies, identity-based groups, universities, and genealogical societies as partners in the Wikimedia movement.
What is the ultimate impact of this project?
This campaign's output helps the general public distinguish "real" from "fake" news sources, and learn more about the real ones. It also helps news organizations and other professionals grasp the significance of Wikipedia as a repository of information relating to credibility, and learn how to engage ethically and effectively with the Wikimedia projects.
This high level effort to highlight credible news sources improves the public's access to good information about all topics covered in the news, including climate science, health, policy, and politics.
We aim to produce several hundred new or improved Wikipedia articles, several hundred new or improved Wikidata entries, and several "showcase" Wikipedia articles and Wikidata entries that can serve as models for future efforts. We will also continue to build the infrastructure that will support future phases of NOW; this will consist of educational resources (videos and wiki pages), improved WikiProject pages, and new and deepened relationships with professional and academic organizations, and a clear roadmap to future iterations of the campaign (see "Could it scale?" section below).
- Minimum Quantitative Goals
- Based on our experience in Phase One, the talents and interests volunteers bring to our campaign can be difficult to predict; for instance, we may find stronger interest in Wikidata than Wikipedia, or stronger interest in Caribbean papers than those in Washington State. We expect to greatly exceed some of the "minimum" goals listed below, but we can't predict with confidence which ones.
- 12 to 24 webinar sessions. These will be organized by theme and audience (e.g., improving existing articles for new Wikipedians; intro to Wikidata for experienced Wikipedians; intro to News on Wiki for newspaper staff and academics; etc.) We do not expect to publish all sessions in their entirety, unless they turn out to have lasting value.
- 10 Instructional videos (portions of the webinars and/or produced separately) will be published to Wikimedia Commons and YouTube under a free license. Some will be more specific to NOW than others; some (such as how to create a Wikidata entry) may have broad applicability to other Wikimedia outreach or education efforts.
- 50 new or existing articles about newspapers brought up the following standard:
- Have an infobox
- Have a Wikidata item including name, "instance of" (newspaper or similar), "place of publication", and "country"
- These 50 will include:
- 15 based in the state of Washington,
- 15 Black owned,
- 15 based in or focused on Caribbean countries or territories.
- 25 existing articles about U.S. newspapers have website added to Wikidata and/or Wikipedia
- 25 articles about existing U.S. newspapers have "founded" and/or "ceased publication" dates added to Wikidata and/or Wikipedia
- Specific Qualitative Goals
- Improved WikiProject pages on English Wikipedia, Meta Wiki, and (perhaps) Wikidata. These will help scaffold our work, as well as future News on Wiki campaigns or adjacent efforts.
- One showcase Wikipedia list or article covering journalism in a specific state or locality.
- One new or substantially improved article about a specific North American local newspaper.
- One new or substantially improved article about a specific North American black-owned newspaper.
Could it scale?
Yes, scaling is one of the primary benefits of our iterative and community-building approach. We have designed our outreach techniques to engage and connect volunteers with a wide variety of relevant expertise, which result in lasting, productive relationships and peer support. In Phase Two, we aim to run two complementary components simultaneously, to explore further scaling opportunities. One will focus on a place (Washington State) and the other on topic and audience (Black-owned and Caribbean-focused). We expect that outreach to audiences for each will yield contacts in the other component, helping to build a community of practice around improving articles about newspapers. We have the beginnings of relationships to serve each component already. We regard the overlap of the components (e.g., Black-owned newspapers based in Washington) as a strength, as it will allow us to explore how these two approaches can support one another.
For scaling beyond Phase Two:
The learning and coordination resources we produce are published under a free license, and endure on wiki pages and other freely accessible Internet pages. Most importantly, we openly document and refine our model with each iteration, which permits us or others to apply it to other regions, countries, or even other wiki topic areas.
Specifically, the campaign could be scaled on any of the following vectors:
- locality (city, region, state, or nation)
- type of news outlet (mainstream media, small press, special interest)
- language edition of Wikipedia
We estimate that 1,000 to 2,000 local U.S. newspapers meet English Wikipedia's inclusion criteria, but lack an article. Other language editions cover even fewer U.S. newspapers.
Why are you the people to do it?
Pete Forsyth was a leader in the NOW campaign, Phase One (2018). He has run the Wikipedia training and consulting agency Wiki Strategies since 2009. In that capacity and in his role as the Wikimedia Foundation's first Public Outreach Officer, he has guided major foundations, NGOs, universities, and corporations in effective, ethical engagement with Wikipedia. Notably, he was an early architect of the Wikimedia Foundation's strategy around higher education, and he designed the six-week online course "Writing Wikipedia Articles," which he taught four times. Universities and conferences worldwide have engaged him to present on Wikipedia, and he has convened and moderated several panel discussions focused on Wikipedia and the news, featuring both news experts and Wikipedia experts.
Sherry Antoine is a New York-based outreach consultant and speaker committed to addressing gender and diversity gaps. She is the Lead Organizer of the Wikimedians of the Caribbean Wikimedia User Group, a group dedicated to improving and adding content about the Caribbean and its diaspora to Wikipedia, Wikidata and related projects. Sherry is the executive director of AfroCROWD, an outreach initiative and Wikimedia user group which seeks to increase awareness among people of African descent of Wikimedia and the free knowledge, culture, and software movements . Sherry is a director on the board of the Internet Society of New York, whose mission is to assure the beneficial and open evolution of the global Internet.
In addition, we are keeping the other leaders of Phase One in the loop. These include internationally renowned and published experts in media literacy and education, digital learning, data science, and wiki technology and community. Not all Phase One campaign leaders will have the capacity for full engagement in Phase Two, but all remain valuable allies, promoters, and advisers, and we hope to engage them in a future phase.
What is the impact of your idea on diversity and inclusiveness of the Wikimedia movement?
People of all backgrounds rely on mainstream news sources. African American adults in particular rely on local news, according to a 2019 Pew Research study. Evaluating local publications -- irrespective of the publication's ownership or focus -- is crucial to this audience, as much as to any audience. The news African Americans need on a specific topic (e.g., a bill before the state legislature) may only exist in a white-owned news outlet; broadly, NOW aims to help such readers determine whether such an outlet is reliable or not.
There are three ways we further address diversity and inclusion:
- Highlighting diverse news sources: This phase emphasizes improvement to wiki content about black-owned newspapers and newspapers in the Carribean, alongside regional sources.
- Engaging diverse contributors: Both project leaders have worked extensively to engage Wikimedia volunteers from diverse backgrounds, including race, gender, sexual orientation, and other demographics. As described by Rothschild et. al. Wellesley College, a women's college, was a strong force in both the theoretical underpinnings of NOW and in the volunteer base that drove Phase One. In Phase Two, we will further expand the diversity of campaign participants with outreach to underrepresented communities.
- Exploring linguistic diversity: We will seek opportunities to cover French, Spanish, or other non-English newspapers within our framework; to add Wikidata content in various languages; and build toward a stronger focus on non-English languages in a future phase.
What are the challenges associated with this project and how you will overcome them?
- Keeping wiki veterans engaged
- In Phase One, we addressed this challenge effectively. We built WikiProject pages, a coordination format familiar to Wikipedia editors, which exists within the platform they are already in (i.e., Wikipedia). We will refresh and improve the WikiProject pages for Phase Two. We will also migrate some content to a new "News on Wiki" WikiProject page on Meta Wiki, in order to simplify the Wikipedia pages, and also to increase visibility among Wikipedians and Wikimedians around the world.
- Recruiting and engaging new Wikipedians
- Project leaders have extensive professional networks and deep experience recruiting and training new volunteers.
- Scarcity of source materials (coverage of newspapers in reliable sources)
- In Phase One, we documented worthwhile source materials and tips on accessing them, in WikiProject pages. We identified strong, freely accessible sources for Washington State and for black-owned newspapers. Further sources will be gathered by volunteers and campaign staff during Phase Two.
Overall, the structure of NOW mitigates the first and second challenges listed above. Because we measure success in the creation of wiki content, rather than the activity of participants, any success we have in engaging veterans can mitigate difficulty in engaging newcomers, and vice-versa. In practice, Phase One taught us that there can be strong symbiosis in engaging newcomers and veterans simultaneously, as it generates numerous opportunities for peer-to-peer leadership and learning.
How much money are you requesting?
How will you spend the money?
$9,500 compensation for the time of Pete Forsyth and Sherry Antoine to plan and conduct the project. Project leaders estimate a minimum of 30 full days of work during the campaign, plus 10 days for preparation and reporting before and after the campaign. Preparation:
- Building article lists and WikiProject pages
- Outreach to key Wikimedians
- Outreach to news organizations and educators
- Coordination with the makers of PaceTrack (software that can help us track success)
- Publicity through social media and news coverage
- Two to four webinars per month for six months
- Maintain an email list to report progress, issue incremental challenges, and celebrate volunteer accomplishments
- Answer questions and give guidance in several formats
- Report to project participants; give barnstars and other recognition to volunteers
- Written report for the Signpost or another publication, including guidance for a possible later phase of NOW in the reporting
$500 for online subscription services, web conference software and/or conferencing capability.
Phase Two will employ a different model than Phase One. In Phase One, the only explicit expenditure was for an incentive ($25 donations to charity) for each Wikipedia article created or improved. All project leadership costs were "hidden," in the sense that the conveners' time was compensated as part of their ordinary employment.
Phase Two will shift the focus from in-person edit-a-thons to online training (webinars), a model Forsyth employed for the Writing Wikipedia Articles course mentioned above. This is partly in response to the social distancing required by the COVID-19 pandemic, and partly in order to explore a model that will be more easily scalable and sustainable for future efforts.
How long will your project take?
This will be a six month campaign. Start date will depend on the approval date, the holiday season, and the academic calendar; start will be between October 1, 2020 and January 15, 2021. Reporting to be completed within two months of the campaign's conclusion.
Have you worked on projects for previous grants before?
Through his consulting agency Wiki Strategies, Pete Forsyth won and fulfilled a $140,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the primary output of which was the six-week online course Writing Wikipedia Articles. He won and fulfilled a $10,000 grant from the Wikimedia Foundation in 2012, which convened Wikimedians and museum professionals to develop programming, documentation, and outreach infrastructure at the intersection of museum volunteerism and Wikipedia. The initial phase of the NOW campaign was funded by a grant from Paul and Susan Haahr, which provided a charitable incentive for the creation or improvement of Wikipedia content about newspapers.
Through her organizational and outreach consulting work for AfroCROWD, Sherry Antoine has helped garner and implement annual grants from the Wikimedia Foundation totaling more than $200,000 for strategic planning, operation, reporting, partnership development, management, and outreach for the initiative. She was key in helping to grow the project from a meetup in the New York area to a Wikimedia User Group with a solid following online and partners and events worldwide and was recently asked to lead the initiative as its executive director.
Sherry is also a founding member of the Wikimedians of the Caribbean User group and is currently its lead organizer. She helped form a working group. In less than a year, this resulted in the group winning an award and presenting at the preeminent multinational regional conference of Wikipedians in North America, WikiConference North America. The group remains active and may be good partners for the work of NOW in recognizing Caribbean periodicals. Wiki Caribbean has already worked on events with partners like Microsoft Caribbean, the ACURIL researcher conference, and the University of the West Indies.
- E.g., A roundup of recent news about the free press system and local journalism crisis, Seattle Times, June 8, 2020.
- Rothschild, Lurie, and Mustafaraj, "How the Interplay of Google and Wikipedia Affects Perceptions of Online News Sources", Computation and Journalism Symposium, 2019.
- Isaac Johnson, Recent research: The Importance of Wikipedia in Assessing News Source Credibility, The Signpost, September 30, 2019.
- Clay Cazier: Wikidata 101: Columnist Clay Cazier guides you through the basics of Wikidata, explaining what it is, why it matters to SEO professionals and how you can leverage it, Search Engine Land, February 10, 2016.
- For instance, six distinct users, including at least one bot, have further improved the Wikipedia article about the Tabor-Loris Tribune since the conclusion of Phase One.