Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has ditched a team of reporters and editors hired to run his crowd-sourced news website Wikitribune, according to reports, and is now allowing any user to publish news to the site.
Wikitribune was first announced in April last year, with Wales saying it would be the” first time that professional journalists and citizen journalists will work side-by-side as equals writing stories as they happen…”.
In a letter published on Sunday, Wales and co-founder Orit Kopel revealed that there had been “major personnel changes” leading to plans to hire a new team of journalists with different expertise.
The letter said: “Our old staff was great, but we are now focusing much more on community support, and so we are looking for journalists with extensive wiki experience, and journalists with fact-checking passion.”
“We are still working through the site and finding vestiges of the clearly wrong perception that the journalists are ‘above’ the community, supervising their work,” the letter continued.
“This was never the intention and it is something we got wrong in the early design. Despite the best efforts of staff, the overall structure and design didn’t let the community genuinely flourish.”
The Drum reported that 13 editorial staff have left Wikitribune. Kopel told the website: “As this project is so radical, the only way to learn is to try, make mistakes, fix them and move forward.”
The Times has said reporters had been “laid off”.
Previously, Wikitribune users were able to edit stories but the ability to hit publish was restricted to staff journalists and a limited number of trusted community contributors.
Last week Wikitribune gave thousands of the site’s users the ability to publish for the first time.
Wales said there was often a bottleneck because not enough people had been trusted to publish, meaning it was taking too long for stories to go live.
He wrote in an article headlined: “Going full wiki” last week: “This is an experiment. Please be careful with it.
“The basic requirements for something to be published are a judgement that it’s relatively complete (but it doesn’t need to be done because nothing is ever done in this world), doesn’t contain libel or abuse, is justified with good sourcing, isn’t pushing an agenda, etc.
“We don’t want to hit publish on nonsense, obviously, and over time we can and should develop stronger guidelines.”
Peter Bale, a former Reuters correspondent and editor across Europe and Asia, joined Wikitribune as launch editor in August last year but left eight months later in April.
Wales and Kopel continued to claim that they are “inverting completely how people normally think about communities and journalists”.
They said staffing changes were “to invest more in community” by “changing the mix of journalists to more directly suit their role as supporters of the community”.
Wales admitted in a recent interview with Business Insider that Wikitribune is yet to have “a big breakthrough story that changed the world”.
Wikitribune is still in its “pilot” phase, with the aim of move into its “beta” phase in six months to a year.
The website is ad-free and free to use but supporters can make donations, whether as a one-off, monthly, quarterly or annually.
The Wikitribune subscriptions page says donations will help to “improve the technology and hire more journalists”.
Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire