A survey by Matt King for the Online Journalism Blog indicates it may only be a matter of time before we see the first UK experiment with ‘wiki journalism’, with news organisations ranging from the BBC to Sky excited about the potential of wiki technology.
Robin Hamman, Senior Broadcast Journalist and Producer for the BBC told Online Journalism Blog: “The BBC has been using wikis internally for quite some time, particularly for product development and distributed team working within BBC Future Media & Technology. We haven’t, as far as I’m aware, done any external wikis although I’m sure that someone somewhere within the corporation has at least considered doing this.” Adam Gee, New Media Commissioner for Channel 4 believes that there are some hints of Wiki’s coming through online: “In effect, Big Art Mob uses the wiki mentality as the information about the art and the tags can be posted by either the contributor (ie photographer) or the viewer or both.”
Although some haven’t used them as yet, many news organisations see the potential of Wikis in providing a new form of user-generated news. Simon Bucks, Associate Editor for BSKYB is very enthusiastic about the potential of Wiki news features: “I’d love to use it but I don’t have especially imminent plans, sadly…it’s just a matter of prioritising what we can do. I think it’s clearly a tricky area and if we used it in any meaningful way we’d probably need to premoderate stuff. But I like the idea of wiki news stories – especially breaking news where users can add eyewitness accounts. There’s a lot of work to do educating folk but I am pretty bullish about it.”
James Montgomery, editor of FT.com does not have any plans currently to use Wiki’s on FT.com, but does agree that Wiki’s are something to keep an eye on: “In a slightly different sense, wikis are emerging as a form of newsgathering and story-telling: entries began in response to events that become a primary source of news. It’s a form of collaborative news writing; another form of user generated content. It’s fascinating to follow, but we have no current plans to adopt this approach on FT.com”
The main concerns raised are the issues of moderation, and the Wiki’s becoming ‘out of hand’. James Montgomery expressed concerns over issues becoming disputed too heavily: “Wikis online are still a tricky issue. From what I have seen, there is an emerging view that some topics or entries have to be “locked down” by an editor if they become disputed too heavily. That seems sensible.” Simon Bucks, agreed saying that: “The problem I find is that users tend not to understand the difference between information and opinion and too often user generated content-news becomes a vehicle for a rant!”
Robin Hamman believes that the use of hosts/editors is a way around any violations of the rules: A better approach is to use hosts/editors who are a welcoming presence, keep the discussions or other content on topic, and generally stop bad behaviour before it starts through setting the tone and reinforcing positive, editorially relevant behaviour.”