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Journalism is the activity or product of journalists or any other people in preparing any written, visual or audio material for wide spread through the public media with reference to matters relevant to the public. Journalists deem their source as a matter of importance; this is because they will be using the source for future reference.

Wikipedia on the other hand is an internet-based encyclopedia that is edited by anyone and uses the Wiki concept – a concept that anybody can alter any page within the website, some even anonymously.

The live web has become a conventional source of information for everybody including the journalists. However most of the sites with information used by the journalist are dynamic in that the information in them changes by the minute with some even by the second. Wikipedia is one of the only websites that is static and the information on its pages is less likely to change. This begs the question why is Wikipedia not one of the websites whose information is deemed reliable and dependable. Unlike other countless websites, Wikipedia has an ambiguous purpose to it – to serve as a record. Each and every article on the site has a history and every link to the specific article can be found. Any part of an article’s history can be found in the same site as the article itself, as a matter-of-fact many articles in the different websites refer to Wikipedia when they cannot explain a specific history of their article. Agreeably Wikipedia has a lot of many imperfections but still the room for improvement is not closed.

This however is not to say that Journalists and Wikipedia are totally separate, on the contrary they are really growing together, however the number of both professional journalists and amateurs who contribute to the website is not at all logical and needs to be greatly boosted. Participatory journalism engages the news audience in the process of rationalizing the content of websites, crafting the news and to contribute their knowledge in the ecology of the media. This can only be done by changing the image of the website that people have.

The general idea of this article is to look at the different ways that could be used in order to get both professional and amateur journalists to be consistent in updating Wikipedia articles after they have filed their story. This is not an easy task and will need a lot of collaborative effort.

The first step of making Wikipedia a respectable and reputable site to get information for use is by enhancing its social and neutralism aspects. Wikipedia does not have a means of qualifying one as a contributor nor can it track one’s reputation or Identity in any way. This is the reason why malicious contributors exist, their only purpose not to alter a specific article in any helpful manner but rather in a destructive manner. This is why many journalists do not depend on the website as an authoritative source of information. However Wikipedia have come up with a means of foiling the malicious contributor’s works, they undo the destructive work and revert the article back to the former piece that it was. This is however not a long term solution as altering a document takes just about ten seconds to alter and the cat-and-mouse game can be really frustrating to the editors.

Also it is one of Wikipedia’s most adhered to policies to maintain a basis of neutrality in the information posted on the website, taking sides may lead to exaggeration of facts and posting of false information to suit the contributor’s notion. Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales came up with a policy known as the Neutral Point Of View which is supposed to help in maintaining the neutral perspective on the posts. This is hard but not impossible, as a matter-of-fact, a word like ‘terrorist’ cannot be found on the website since it shows biasness. This is as a result of not only the editors but largely the wiki contributors.

Filling the knowledge gap is also one of the other aspects that make Wikipedia a dependent site to refer to. Traditional encyclopedias update their information annually; even the online ones like do so at least after about six months. This makes their information a little irrelevant since they are outdated. However Wikipedia updates its articles by the minute which is a strategy that ensures relevance as well as provision of updated information. This means that Wikipedia will provide any kind of information, be it historical or up-to-date, with hyperlinks. This makes it possible to assess the merits and history in order to contribute to the case at hand. The site however depends on the contributors of articles they are interested in to keep the information up to date and update it with effect to the unfolding times.

Although Wikipedia has done a lot in recent times in terms of filling the knowledge gap a lot still has to be improved. The degree of the quality of articles in the website is not uniform. Some of the articles written are well researched and precise; some are however edited via hear-say which is not a credible source of information. The challenge lies in allowing for anybody and everybody to edit their articles and still maintain the level quality that will still ensure its credibility.

One of the factors that affect the quality of the articles posted on the site is the methodology used in editing the article. The methodology however does not affect the content of an article; rather it focuses on the meta-data concerning the article in subject. Wikipedia has come up with an edit history section on every Wikipedia page which keeps a log of every alteration made on the article in its entire lifetime. The information includes the time, date, username information and whether the alteration was considered minor or major.

The website uses two standards of measure to approve the methodology used:

  • Rigor – this looks at the total number of edits the specific article has had in its lifetime. The more the edits, the higher the quality of the article. This is based on the assumption that the more the article is edited, the deeper the article is treated and the higher the scrutiny involved (Hunsinger, Klastrup & Allen, 2010).
  • Diversity – the more the editors, the more diverse the perspectives and the better analyzed the article. The editors of the article involved may be registered users who use confirmed email accounts or social networking accounts; others edit the articles anonymously and are registered by the IP Addresses of their computers for example

Another method of determining the quality of an article is the use of tools to verify information. Some contributors’ historical references might be inaccurate and thus lower the quality of the article. Wikipedia uses custom software which was specifically made for such a task as to verify the validity of the information posted on the article. There are a couple of open source software that contributors could use to make sure their work is accurate and precise, they include:

  • Perl - a scripting language which can execute tasks, parse text strings and handle date-oriented functions. This is useful in confirming dates that you as a contributor are unsure of.
  • Cygwin– this is open source software used for text processing and analysis of statistics.
  • Microsoft Excel– for computing statistics and graphing functions.

Comparison is another method of ensuring the quality of articles posted on Wikipedia is of high quality. Although it is not one of the major methodologies used, it is still legit especially for use when the topic is still new on the website but has hundreds of references from other reputable sites.

The use of Wikipedia as a source of information that can be referred to by journalists for news stories should be highly encouraged. Apart from a few questions of authenticity and the reputation of the articles, Wikipedia has proved to be a reliable of not only historical information but also up to date information. The site’s system of anybody and everybody enjoying the privileges to edit and/or alter information on the website should not be a barrier at all. Although it is deemed generally risky to refer from the site due to threats like malicious editors and low-quality article pieces, there should be public knowledge of the processes that try to inhibit such shortcomings from deceiving the users of the sites. The website is also highly hyperlinked to ensure that the article and any part of it are well understood and highly informative so that a journalist can find it easy to contribute on the news piece at hand. Making Wikipedia perfect is goal far from being achieved but still not out of sight. As much as the Wikipedia administrator have tried to reach the goal, it is important if we understand that they cannot do it on their own but with our collaboration.

Code: Sample20

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