Did Wikipedia's Founder Just 'Invent' The Newspaper As A Fake News Cure?

Did Jimmy Wales just "invent" the newspaper? There's a lot of buzz around the Wikipedia founder today as he does the media rounds to support his new venture, Wikitribune. It's billed as a novel idea to counter fake news. The big idea? Subscribing to a site so journalists and editors can be paid. Not sure if it's just me, but is anyone else wondering if this really is the news industry's "Uber moment"?

OK -- there's also an element of supporters paying to be members who then get a say in articles, in a mechanism that isn't clearly defined at present. The site says this takes the public away from being just a footnote on comments under an article. Instead they will have a say on vetting articles to make sure the source is sourced and facts are facts.

Anyone else see a recipe for disaster here as journalists try to get out news in a timely fashion, only to be questioned by members of the public with conflicting views questioning the veracity of their facts if they don't align with their previously formed convictions?

In other words, how many times do you think a member of the public will disagree with something a journalist has written? Let me enlighten you. It will happen with every article. Throw in a community of public editors and you've got an unworkable newsroom.

The site makes a major point about being advertising-free to avoid being dependent on advertisers. However, it's not entirely clear how subscription revenue will be split between community members and journalists. Will most-read articles get the biggest fee for both community members involved in their publication and the original author? Makes sense, but if that's the only way to pay professional writers for their time, let me assure you, that is the perfect conditions for clickbait.

Hence, more tension between journalists and the community members who are somehow having a say in the final product.

It makes me remember a photograph that has always stuck in my mind. It was of a convenience store shelf stacked with single bananas, each in a tray, wrapped in way too much plastic. It was accompanied by a caption comically lamenting nature not being able to provide the humble banana with its own natural, protective coat. 

Same applies here, doesn't it? Can you imagine a world in which professional journalists check facts, have editors to hold them to account and are paid a wage through the articles being supported by either advertising or subscriptions, preferably both? I think you can because it's what we already have.

As for the community aspect -- well, people vote with their clicks. If they don't like what a paper is publishing, they don't subscribe or don't bother reading for free any longer. And who said the comments aren't important. I usually scan down to see what people are saying about an article to see it's often a battle between supporters and objectors to the item's stance. 

As for the fake news aspect, people can remember the times a paper has been caught out because they have usually been outed as fakes -- Hitler diaries, anyone? No, the newspapers don't have to take a stance against fake news because that's exactly what they have trained journalists and editors to ensure doesn't happen.

Hence, we have the era of "alternative facts" where news organisations hold those in power to account for their claims. This doesn't happen on microsites set up by amateur bloggers with a mission. But it does with the professional news organisations dedicated to bringing factual articles to their paying audience.

Cast your mind back 10 years ago, and you'd have thought it crazy that we'd be in a world where people expect free access to every newspaper in the world. So it makes perfect sense we take stock and realize the answer to fake news isn't some new reinvention of the newspaper in which we involve community editors.

It's supporting the papers we trust to bring us informed articles, based on clearly demonstrable truth -- not just opinion based on facts that are never substantiated nor sourced.

We already have the answer to fake news. Visiting trusted news brands for our information and hopefully subscribing to several sites to ensure the tap stays switched on.

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