Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
WikiTribune – Evidence-based journalism (wikitribune.com)
462 points by spearo77 211 days ago | hide | past | web | 220 comments | favorite

So this is a for-profit operation where volunteers do the work? The site is vague about such details. "People like you helping people like us help ourselves?" Not good. You can be a for-profit or a non-profit, but pretending to be a non-profit when you're not is deceptive.

Their terms of use are awful.[1] Note that they want to operate under British law, where libel law favors the subject. They have an indemnification clause, so their volunteers could be compelled to reimburse WikiTribune if WikiTribune loses a libel suit. That's happened in the UK; see the famous McLibel case, where McDonalds sued two Greenpeace volunteers. That decision was overturned by the European Court of Human Rights. But, post-Brexit, that level of appeal will no longer be available.

They also appear to have plagiarized the terms of use from other sites. One section reads "We may, in our sole discretion, limit or cancel quantities purchased per person, per household or per order. ... We reserve the right to limit or prohibit orders that, in our sole judgment, appear to be placed by dealers, resellers or distributors." That exact text appears on other sites, usually ones that sell tangible goods. It's completely inappropriate here. Sloppy.

This stuff matters when the business involves pissing people off. Don't volunteer to write for this organization unless and until they work out the liability issue.

[1] https://www.wikitribune.com/terms-of-use/ [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McLibel_case

Small point of information: the European Court of Human Rights is not an EU institution and so will remain available to UK citizens after Brexit.

True, but Mrs. May is not a fan of the Convention or the Court. Scrapping it is not directly tied to Brexit, but it's still related, if only by being an international agreement with the word "European" in it.


Do you have a credible news source, or just The Independent?

Since when was the independent not a credible news source? Genuine question.

They've had declining readership for a long time; run out of money and been sold to a Russian billionaire for £1; laid off a lot of journalists; and gone online-only. Also, looking at their front page I assume their writers are being paid per click judging by their choice of stories.

There's no precise way to measure journalistic credibility - but it's clear they've been hit hard by the trends of technology.

Oh, is it considered credible? Not being in the UK I don't have a sense of this, but I had gradually built up a perception over the last couple months that it was a sort of click-bait, mediocre source like, maybe, HuffPo or BuzzFeed. I put it somewhere above Daily Mail but below BBC or The Guardian.

I started forming this opinion on an article that re-hashed the story of Flynn being fired, but in such a poorly edited way with so much bluster that I literally couldn't understand what the actual facts were it was trying to convey. Fortunately, the article linked to the WaPo story it was based on, and I was able to understand from there.

I wish I could find that story now, but unfortunately I couldn't. But I found this one in my browser history, which I think shows the issues I have with it:


The headline is big and blustery, which is why I associate it with clickbait. Then the first paragraph explains: "it has been reported". That is, the Independent isn't doing the primary research itself; it finds other articles and amplifies them. There's a bunch of sites that do this and it frustrate me, since the original article usually is a little more nuanced. The whole game here is to pick an article and make it more juicy.

Compare the headline of the Guardian article which this one is "amplifying":

> British spies were first to spot Trump team's links with Russia. Exclusive: GCHQ is said to have alerted US agencies after becoming aware of contacts in 2015

with the Independent's take on the same story:

> 'Concrete evidence of collusion between Trump team and Russia' handed to official investigation. New evidence comes as sources reveal British spy agency GCHQ played pivotal role in uncovering interactions between US President and Russian operatives

It's the same story. The first paragraph of the Independent article uses the "has been reported" phrasing, and the second links to the Guardian article it's based on.

On top of that, the Independent article itself has boneheaded phrasing like:

> "a source allegedly told the Guardian."

The underlying Guardian article talks about "alleged conversations", but now we get to the Independent, and now on top of that we have "alleged sources"! How far away are we from what really happened here? I mean, I guess I'm glad they're not saying "a source told The Guardian" since they don't really have proof of that, but that's a weird thing to be strict about, and really just indicates how worthless this 2nd hand reporting style is anyway.

So I basically ignore the Independent now whenever I see it come up. I didn't realize they were supposed to be one of the "good" ones.

> but I had gradually built up a perception over the last couple months that it was a sort of click-bait, mediocre source like, maybe, HuffPo or BuzzFeed. I put it somewhere above Daily Mail but below BBC or The Guardian.

Is it just me that finds it's amusing that you came to a conclusion based off of feelings and conjecture than hard evidence? You know given the subject matter. Not disputing your points it just tickled me.

Without commenting on the implementation, I think this is the problem that WikiTribune looks to solve? I know I have a fuzzy logic in my head that ranks news sources. And I have since before the web, but possibly now we have the tools to do some of the evidence based ranking you hope for! I am not confident we are quite ready for it not to be gamed for profit though.

The Independent doesn't exist as a newspaper. It closed last year. The website was handed over to a team of marketers, to try and make money from the brand. They have been successful.

Given the headline mentions a 2020 election, I think it's fair to question the reliability of the article itself.

The election was supposed to happen in 2020 when this article was written.


Seriously, LMGTFY? Despite the parent's borderline snarky response, you're just making things worse.

Exactly. ECHR has nothing to do with the EU, but with the Council of Europe.

Council of Europe includes (almost) the entire Europe (with Belarus and disputed Kosovo currently being the only countries which are not a part of it).

> with Belarus and disputed Kosovo currently being the only countries which are not a part of it).

should we expect Britain to join them soon?! Imagine one day Belarus will be more democratic than UK. It's incorrect to say that Britain doesn't have a constitution, they have one, it's non-official manual, you know the one that bears title of a year 33 years ago.

I repeat: Council of Europe has nothing to do with the European Union.

He probably confused it with the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

You are technically correct, but the ruling Conservatives have stated they intend to withdraw anyway after Brexit.

To withdraw from what? Council of Europe?

Nobody ever claimed that. In fact, that's the very exact Council that the UK had to notify about its intention to leave the EU.

EDIT: Theresa May did claim that her campaign in 2020 would focus on that. So, they're not leaving it for three years at least.

They notified the European Council, not the Council of Europe.

Similar name, big difference.

Even more fun: there is also the Council of the European Union.

> Theresa May did claim that her campaign in 2020 would focus on that. So, they're not leaving it for three years at least.

Won't be a campaign in 2020 since she announced a snap election a few weeks ago for June 8th, next likely election is then 2021 unless she just votes her self Leader for Life or something in the interim.

I am aware of that, I just tried to correct my statement that "nobody claimed that" which I made before the edit. The second sentence in my edit was kind of unnecessary though.

British libel law was reformed in 2013 in response to a major campaign related to your complaints. As I understand it the situation is a lot better now. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation_Act_2013

It's still surprising they'd choose to base a journalism start-up out of the United Kingdom versus a country with enumerated press freedoms.

Yep. Seems like they should have chosen one of the Nordic countries instead: https://rsf.org/en/ranking (Reporters Without Borders still ranks the UK as more free than the US, which does have "enumerated press freedoms", plus a whole number of enumerated and non-enumerated restrictions.)

He wants to title his memoir "The Outlaw Jimmy Wales".

The idea of a for-profit institutions convincing volunteers to do the work is the same model Google uses for projects like Go, NPM uses for NPM, Docker uses for Dockerhub, StackOverflow uses for StackOverflow etc.

So far as I am aware (I am not an attorney) none of those institutions indemnifies voluntary contributors.

Small point: the defendants in the McLibel trial had nothing to do with Greenpeace. They were members of a small group called London Greenpeace that had no connection with the well known Greenpeace. So contrary to your post, the McLibel trial is not an example of an employer making their volunteers foot the bill for libel.

>> Their terms of use are awful.[1] Note that they want to operate under British law, where libel law favors the subject. They have an indemnification clause, so their volunteers could be compelled to reimburse WikiTribune if WikiTribune loses a libel suit.

Wow, that liability is enough to keep me from participating.

> So this is a for-profit operation where volunteers do the work?

Where do you get "for-profit" from? They can be a non-profit but still need money. But yeah, they should be explicit about that. Also, volunteers do part of the work.

Perhaps the point should be whether WikiTribune is a registered charity which it is not but then nor is Wikipedia I believe although WikiMedia is.

> They also appear to have plagiarized the terms of use from other sites.

Well, if so, they have a lot of company: https://goo.gl/zfz0pp

The entire document is all over the web. If it gets off the ground I would expect it to be updated.

This might be the original: http://secureglobalpay.net/site/support-resources/sample-ter...

This is very disappointing, but not surprising. I've been hoping for a new news outlet that can structure itself to be immune to a narrative or hive-mind mentality, I'd be happy to support such an organization.

This doesn't seem like a new concept at all. The New York Times* strives to be even-handed and report only credible information. I consider the New York Times trustworthy.

This seems to want to be just another news outlet, except with a weird business model.

If it was just a link aggregator, now, that could be useful IMO. I don't know of a general solution to finding the best articles (there are usually multiple versions of the same article on the same topic, but some are better than others).

*Substitute any newspaper with high journalistic standards.

Does it? In another HN thread there was a link posted to this article from 2004:


Apparently the actual staff of the NY Times are under no illusions about the even-handedness of their own work. And that was written over a decade ago. I'm not sure how you'd objectively define high standards or trustworthiness except in a circular manner.

Point taken. I think the kind of bias that is most insidious is bias that is not easily recognized and affects hard news. The most important issue is "can I trust what I read here?" The most dangerous kind of bias would be bias that affects articles that are presented as fact and has the effect of deceiving the reader without them being aware of it.

>> I'm not sure how you'd objectively define high standards or trustworthiness except in a circular manner.

Firstly, the examples of bias in that link you provided don't affect trustworthiness. Second, I'm not sure how you might define those terms, but one way to measure a trustworthy publication would be to ask people if they trust it. In other words, you would be measuring its reputation.

Nice source, very well put.

I've seen a concept that uses crowd contested media. Groups of users target fallacies, biases, mistakes and other flaws in articles.

I wonder if there will be the same amount of political infighting and fiefdoms we see on WikiPedia.

Influential editors burying stories that don't serve their personal political agendas and the like.

It's seems to be carved out of news section from Wikipedia frontpage, like Wikia was carved out of Wikipedia trivia sections. It's again Jimmy who launches a private company and suddenly Wikipedia changes the rules to forbid trivia section to boot his for profit offspring. Conflict of interest it's called.

> It's seems to be carved out of news section from Wikipedia frontpage

Other than the fact that WikiTribune will use actual journalists doing original reporting? Wikinews just summarizes current events.

> suddenly Wikipedia changes the rules to forbid trivia section to boot his for profit offspring

What evidence do you have for this? Conspiracy theorists love making outlandish claims they can't substantiate at all.

> Wikinews just summarizes current events.

Not true. It has original reporting, too.

* https://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Wikinews:Original_reporting

I wrote an original reporting article for Wikinews once.

Ask someone who is older than 20, everyone remember the trivia sections on many Wiki pages on Wikipedia.

Search for trivia eg on this page: http://www.slashdot.org/story/91607

It of course not easy to point to older events with a still working link, when 1) Wikipedia deletes it's own history, 2) Wikipedia and trivia are such common words it's hard to find, 3) even news sites change so much.

Random slashdot comments aren't a source and don't back up what you portrayed as a conscious effort by Jimmy Wales to forbid trivia sections for his own personal gain. Maybe it's just possible that the editors themselves decided those sections weren't appropriate?

> Wikipedia deletes it's own history

Only for copyright violations and offensive vandalism. It never has for anything else, but of course you won't back this claim up either and will make up more excuses.

Conspiracy theorists just dig themselves further and further into a hole, to the point where everything else is also a conspiracy against them getting their "truth" out.

The article in the dupe thread suggested that this would combat "fake news," but I dunno about that. I get the impression that people who digest biased/questionable sources do it to express tribal affiliation more than some genuine need to be informed. Hell, many people share articles without even reading them; they're primarily concerned with what the headline in their feed says about their character rather than the world at large. I'm not sure if having (another) "evidence based" outlet is going to be of any use to your cranky uncle.

I think the real promise lies in Wikitribune potentially going toe-to-toe with "real news" like CNN or the Washington Post. These outlets also don't always get the facts straight and can't be said to have a diehard following. If a superior option presents itself, readers will follow.

I tried to track down some of the crazy news stories that were being shared broadly on Facebook and much of what I found was that they were algorithmically generated titles slapped onto the same URL and the actual "story" was copied bits from other semi-related stories.

You'd find really salacious headlines: "Hillary Clinton Murder Victim Speaks" and the actual story would be about her fundraising.

They were arbitraging the cost of buying a FB ad (to drive traffic and start the viral loop) against how many ads they could run on the site.

I agree that this won't help everyone, but I don't think it matters. Anyone who wants to stick their head on the sand will always be able to, I don't really see any way around that. I do think it is important for people seeking out accurate an unbiased information be able to do so effectively. This is becoming increasingly difficult.

The danger here is not people who will stick their heads in sand. It's people who would not allow opinions different from their own to exist. So called "fact-checkers" were subverted by partisan propaganda in mere months. This effort vulnerable to the same too.

If it uses fully egalitarian participation model, a determined, vocal and ruthless clique would be able to enforce their view with relative ease, by just a) investing more time than others, thus gaining standing in the project and clout to use against opponents and b) just by shouting down the opponents and scaring them off - most people wouldn't care enough to resist an organized clique on some semi-obscure project.

If it uses some kind of "expert panel", it can be attacked by activists, demanding to eject people who hold controversial opinions, or make their life hard until they leave. It can also be selected to be biased from the get go - many academic disciplines and professions have a lot of biases. If in some fields majority of experts hold some opinions, they would also tend to select for agreement with them, thus enforcing the groupthink and completely denying representation to alternative opinion.

Any centralized system would be vulnerable to this. Any single "source of truth" can be subverted.

> It's people who would not allow opinions different from their own to exist. So called "fact-checkers" were subverted by partisan propaganda in mere months.

Months since when, exactly? Most popular fact checkers existed long before the "fake news" meme brought them to newfound attention.

> Months since when, exactly?

Since they gained widespread popularity as a watchdogs and arbiters over the "regular media". This was long before last US elections which has triggered the "fake news" panic (well, triggered may be not the best word here, "involved" may be better, but I don't want to digress too much).

Well, I realize it's hard for me to give specific times here, mostly because I don't remember neither when exactly I started reading fact-checking sites, nor when exactly I started noticing propaganda showing up. Maybe some of them held for a year or two, and maybe some of them worked in relative obscurity for a while and managed to keep a clean record before they gained popularity that allowed prominent politicians to cite them as a proof, and thus became a target for subversion. And maybe there are others who I didn't know about and who have much better record (bad luck for me).

The underlying point is that what I observed is that once some outlet becomes widely known as arbiter of truth in any political context, and it does not have very strong independent filtering mechanism, propaganda shows up very soon. If it does have one, propaganda shows up too (e.g. there are tons of biased articles on Wikipedia and there is a lot of shoddy and biased research in scientific journals) but a bit slower.

I note that you're not mentioning the actual fact checking sites that you believe to be subverted, nor specific stories that serve as examples of this subversion.

I've seen criticism of Snopes, for example - but apart from one or two examples of cock-ups that they corrected, I've never seen any evidence of subversion - so which sites are you talking about?

Snopes is one of them, surely, that I've seen lots of partisan propaganda, especially on political topics (of course, it's hard to put propaganda into a topic like "did a woman in Florida marry an alligator and gave birth to alligator-headed twins?" so it's in political topics). But I purposedly didn't name specific one because they are all like that - snopes, politifact, fatcheck, you name it. I'm not talking about specific screwup of specific outlet, you can always explain it away, I'm talking about how things are developing (at least how it looks to me) in general.

So again - you're neglecting to actually post any links to this "partisan propganda" on Snopes - come now, you say there's lot of it, so show us some.

"Partisan propaganda" isnt the largest issue, even if you find support of it. Fact-checkers just cant scale to the meet the production of news per day. Not possible. Not even with 10 trusted Snopes-like organizations. Snopes produced 830 stories in 2016 under their "News" topic. Thats 2 stories a day. CNN produced over 35,000 stories last year... then there is NYT, HuffPo, WaPo, Fox, MSNBC, Hill.........

I would but that would not achieve any useful purpose - any specific example I give can be either claimed as genuine disagreement and lead to a prolonged discussion that would derail from the topic completely, while arriving at no useful conclusion, or dismissed as either "it's small change, that's all you got?" or "this is just one example of no true Scotsman, true Scotsmen are different".

But ok, here's an experiment. Not snopes (I have snopes examples too, just requires a bit more time to find).

Bernie says black youth real unemployment is 51% - Politifact says it's mostly true[1], maybe even over that. Maybe the terminology was a bit off, but the point of high black youth unemployment is correct. Not completely true, but mostly is.

Trump says black youth unemployment is 59% - so Politifact says it's close to true, but probably closer to 51%, right? Trump is close to truth, but maybe exaggerated a little, as is his habit? Nope, Politifact says it's mostly false[2] and the real figure is a third of that. Note how in the first case PF is completely OK with extending unemployment definition but turns rigorously pedantic in the second case and insists unemployment is nothing but the figure published by BLS, and Trump's point - which is exactly the same point as Sanders had! - is total bullshit. How do you like them apples?

[1] http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/jul/...

[2] http://www.politifact.com/virginia/statements/2016/jun/20/do...

Want more? Here's more.

Ron Paul says there was no income taxes until 1913? Half true[3], there were short-lived efforts to introduce the tax (as if that was the point). Jim Webb says the same? Fact check is now "mostly true"[4]. This one was corrected postfactum, because somebody noticed and made fuss out of it.

There are many more examples of PF doing this - spinning the facts depending on who said it. Snopes is doing the same, and more - like taking a factually true statement, finding some retelling that adds a slight exaggeration or twist to it and slapping "mostly false" on it and dedicating most of the article to refuting that slight twist and ignoring the original fact. Because while the initial fact is true, this particular exaggeration or twist is not, so the compound statement is "false" and now the original statement can be reported as "found to be mostly false by factcheckers". Primitive manipulation, but it works.

[3] http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2012/jan/31/ron-p...

[4] http://www.politifact.com/virginia/statements/2015/aug/24/ji...

A simple google search will provide you with numerous examples, even of Snopes in particular. Here's one[0] by Snopes where the True/False statements don't even match the claim. It's obvious the "fact checker" (i.e. journalist) contorted the argument to reach a desired conclusion.

[0] http://www.snopes.com/hillary-clinton-freed-child-rapist-lau...

So I've just had a look at that. The True/False statements seem to match the claim pretty closely - which elements in particular make you think otherwise?

It certainly predated the 2012 presidential election, since there was that embarrassing incident where the PolitiFact 2012 Lie of the Year turned out to be true and the press came up with some truly bizarre contortions to pretend otherwise.

Context: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/02/romney-...

> Key line: "Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China." Romney's wording of this statement in a prior speech was even stronger: "I saw a story today, that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China."

> The claim originated in a Bloomberg News story, which the conservative Washington Examiner construed to mean that Jeep was struggling and considering moving some or all manufacturing from the U.S. to China as a result. When the Romney campaign was questioned about this statement, aides conspicuously stuck to it.

> In an important way it is the opposite of the truth. Between the 2009 bankruptcy filing and 2012, Jeep had robust growth. Its manufacturing in the U.S. was expanding and it was hiring workers. Its overseas sales also picked up, and it was considering re-opening shuttered factories in China. These facilities were not going to replace domestic manufacturing -- they were for making certain models of compact SUVs specifically tailored to the Chinese market, which are impractical to import from the U.S. So the statement, "Jeep is doing poorly and so will move manufacturing to China," is false, while "Jeep is doing well and may resume manufacturing in China," is true. (Furthermore, the deal that left Fiat with a controlling share of Chrysler emerged from talks begun before Obama was president.)

This happens because of funding. If poltifact and others were funded by donations or subscriptions, this might not happened. If they are left to advertisers or rent-seekers, they WILL devolve to regular lying/biased media.

I agree. This isn't a problem with fake news so much as the response to it though.

I agree with you and I'm looking forward to checking this out if/when it launches. I was only taking issue with the title of the original article, which suggested this was a direct countermeasure to "fake news" rather than an attempt at better news. I think Jimbo is more concerned about bridging a divide between journalists and audience (hence his mention of comments sections) than he is about drowning out some fly-by-night spam mills.

Yeah, some people may not care about it and go on to consume questionable but ideological aligned news. However, this is for the people who do care about reliable and transparent news. For these people Wikitribune promises to do a great deal to combat fake news because at this time all they can do it to choose between different flavors of fake news.

I see nothing about bias in this website and knowing that Wales probably has a liberal bent, this makes me worry if he only cares about fake news and not biased news. A true solution has to fix both, the latter being more important imo.

The top print publications aren't "biased", except for the well-known slant of their editorial pages (WSJ: Conservative, NYT: Liberal). "Unbiased" just doesn't mean what people think it does.

If, for example, some segment of the population starts believing that a presidential candidate is running a child prostitution ring from a DC pizza joint, it isn't "bias" when the media does not afford it equal weight to, say, a joint FBI/NSA/CIA/DJ statement regarding a crime.

If you want to know what I mean by biased news, go to /r/politics/ right now and count the number of news articles against Trump.

- Trump backs away from demand for border wall money

- The State Department is apparently spending money to officially promote Mar-a-Lago

- Trump’s border-wall fantasy is crumbling

- Trump’s White House Family Affair Looks A Lot Like The Most Corrupt Nations In The World

- CNN’s Tapper: US 'shamelessly' advertising Trump's businesses

- Poll: 73% Back Independent Probe of Russian Election Interference

- Anderson Cooper Warns: Don’t Be ‘Desensitized’ By Trump’s ‘Fake Facts’

- Mar-A-Lago removed from State Department blog after ethics outcry

Only one of those items was real news:

- Entire U.S. Senate to go to White House for North Korea briefing

Any real solution needs to make sure that it doesn't devolve to this mess.

Half of these are editorials, yes. Editorials have been part of journalism for as long as words were printed onto paper. The media is the forum where such debates happen. Also, /r/politics isn't news. Do such a list with the headlines on the NYT cover.

On each point:

- Trump was demanding "border wall money" and it was threatening to derail the debate over a budget CR. If he had not caved, the US government would have shut down on Friday. How is that not real news?

- If the State Department is spending money to promote MAr-a-Lago, how is that not corruption? How is corruption not news?

- same as (1). Also, check the URL: wp.com/opinion

- Giving powerful jobs to family members is the definition of nepotism. This is certainly commentary

- same as (2)

- Politicians make decisions based on poll data. Should the public not be told of poll results?

- Yeah, it's an opinion. It's not pretending to be news.

- Same as 2

I don't actually get the complaint. Do you consider everything negative about the President "biased"? What if he dies? Would reporting that be considered "biased", because it could have an impact on his chances of reelection?

It's bias via omission. Anything positive about Trump or the right has a zero percent chance of not being moderated away.

Moderation / curation / selection is present in every single organization; this cannot be helped. Not only is it human nature (humans are tribal, and newspapers / magazines often target specific demographics or mindsets). but the sheer quantity of news makes it impossible to do otherwise.

I expect, in other words, the Wall Street Journal curated headline list to look different from the New York Times headline list, and likewise for the New York Times headline list to look different from the Economist headline list, and that to look very different from my local city paper headline list.

To me, "unbiased news" therefore does not in practice exist (and most complaints about bias are merely complaining that something exhibits "the wrong" bias.) The only true way of coming close to "unbiased news" is probably via meta-analysis. Humans probably cannot handle this for all articles -- a single person would be overloaded with information.

Realistically, the best you can do is limit yourself to a few select news sources that you find the most trustworthy, or that you care about personally (eg more specialized news sources). There is bias even in that, but as long as your curation isn't in one silo, you are probably more informed than most.

(Maybe machine learning could be used to generate meta-analysis of news items with as little "bias" as possible, however even here there's a strong possibility that the bias of the "trainer" would end up dominating...)

How do you define "unbiased" that doesn't also apply to Fox news? For instance, on the foxnews.com homepage there's a feature "FATCATS' FRIEND Obama pulls in $400G with Wall Street speech" which is factually correct. While a casual perusal of nytimes.com homepage has a "There Are More than 2 Jobs in Solar for Every 1 Job in Coal" article, which is again factually correct.

"Bias", such as it is, is entirely in what stories are presented, and the slant given to them.

As another example consider this NYTimes article[0] "Free Market for Education? Economists Generally Don’t Buy It", which refers to a study where 36% Economists surveyed think vouchers would be good, 19% think they would be bad, and 45% are undecided. By lumping together "undecided" and "bad" the article can correctly make the claim "generally don't buy it", but another way of interpreting the data would be "about twice as many economists are pro-voucher as anti-voucher". But that's a headline you'd expect on Fox rather than NYTimes. But both are true!

[0] https://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/12/30/upshot/free-market-for...

There's no fix for 'biased' news because the whole issue is a red herring.

How come? There are frequently two sides to an issue, both with contradicting evidence (Global Warming, for example). Presenting only one side of the argument might adhere to the evidence-based principle, but that would nevertheless be a biased presentation.

There are never two sides to an issue. That would imply the solution is to "show both sides" on any given issue and then you're done, BBC-style. We consider this to be a flawed form of journalism - it substitutes "A vs B" for nuanced journalism and any deep understanding of the subject matter. You'd never know of the disagreements between climate change scientists because the whole problem is presented by the media as "does it exist at all vs doesn't it?". It also ignores the most prevalent form of bias - simply running stories on a given subject more/less often, or pointing out certain characteristics of people more/less often, and so on and so forth.

97% agreement is higher than the level of consensus on much of medical care, diet, or technology.


Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals1 show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources.

The source for the 97% claim is usually the Cook2013 survey. Is a phrase like '...carbon sequestration in soil is important for mitigating global climate change' in a paper abstract really enough to be counted part of the 97%? Some of the surveyed authors disagree with their classification [0,1].

Cook2013: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/0240...

[0] http://www.populartechnology.net/2013/05/97-study-falsely-cl... [1] http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048...

The most recent study (2015) on your second link that is a literal survey has 93.7% consensus.

The next valid study in (2014) is 87%.

It then throws in a study that includes people who aren't scientists with lower numbers.

Then you have Cook.

Then you have another study with 90% consensus.

Then another two more that includes non-scientists.

Then one with a different question.

Then one with a 100% consensus based on published scientists.

Then another one that includes non-scientists.

The range is from 87% to 100% consensus with 2 of 5 at 97% or greater.

I understand you are trying to argue I'm wrong but the moment you start referencing personal blogs and studies that include non-scientists, you aren't really debunking what I said to any great degree and none of the years overlap sufficiently so its really a charge of a trend of belief over time combined with different methodologies.

100% -> 90% -> 97% -> 87% -> 93.7%

That makes perfect sense given science is always going to uncover new evidence that there was some variation over a 15 year period.


Now imagine a publication that only presents the results of the other 3%.

Using that logic, you can never trust a single doctor because you need to see 20 of them to get a balanced perspective.

Using that logic, when presented with the perspective from 20 doctors reaching two different conclusions, you present both perspectives and conclusions. Furthermore, you do not suggest whom to trust.

Also, it is somewhat ironic that you chose doctors as an example, as this is the area where it is common practice to get a second opinion when presented with a material conclusion.

> Also, it is somewhat ironic that you chose doctors as an example, as this is the area where it is common practice to get a second opinion when presented with a material conclusion.

A second opinion doesn't require a 20 person sample size to have a a reasonable chance of landing on someone who shares your views.

There is a reason it is to get a second opinion, not 20 opinions.

The basic problem here isn't the irony you perceive but the fact literally _nothing_ in modern medicine functions if you require 97% consensus.

A doctor that manipulates you for some purpose that has nothing to do with your health may very well end up losing a license and go to jail. A journalists doing the same just calls it Tuesday.

> A doctor that manipulates you for some purpose that has nothing to do with your health may very well end up losing a license and go to jail. A journalists doing the same just calls it Tuesday.

So your argument is scientists are equivalent to journalists who solely exist to manipulate you?

You are free to stop using a computer, taking medication, and driving a car in that case.

> So your argument is scientists are equivalent to journalists

Erm, what? How is that my argument?

> journalists who solely exist to manipulate you?

I don't say they exist "solely" to manipulate - I say they consider manipulating part of allowable and normal behavior, and this should be corrected. Until this is done, the level of trust we allow to a journalist should be much lower than one allowed to a doctor. Because the doctor is supposed to be on your side, and the journalist is not.

> You are free to stop using a computer, taking medication, and driving a car in that case.

You seem to be answering something completely unrelated to my comment in any way. Please don't do that.

Your last sentence is my point, particularly this phrase: 'but that would nevertheless be a biased presentation'. Who cares? Trying to eliminate bias from everything is a fool's errand that will tie people up in pointless minutiae - just like whatever happens when warming sceptics are let near anything resembling a debate. These people want to sow confusion and division, so much better to ignore them, especially when their position adds nothing to the discourse.

We've already solved this problem: Professionalism. Quality professional culture is preferable to pointless nitpicking anyday.

I see, but doesn't that just shift the question from bias to "How can WikiTribune ensure quality professional culture?"

I think so, but IMO that's a much more productive question :)

The point is not eliminating bias in each message. The point is adequately representing what's going on and providing tools for people to make informed decision. If some information source hides parts of information and distorts another parts of information, this goes contrary to that goal.

> We've already solved this problem: Professionalism

You say it as if it explains something. But it doesn't - what's "professionalism"? There are a lot of people that are literally paid millions to deliver news, and if you're interested in news (and not, for example, in making fun of the person you disagree with or reinforcing your preconceived notions about people disagreeing with you being evil and stupid) they are doing a spectacularly crappy job. Are they "professionals"? And if not, where does one gets them? Are people that fake scientific data "professionals" (happens all the time)? Are people that make grand political claims based on shoddy research or no research at all "professionals" or not? Where does one get that "quality culture" which would eliminate those common occurrences?

You seem determined to focus on outliers rather than averages. There are lots of examples of professional news gathering and reporting organisations around the world that are trusted and reliable sources of information. A key part of this professionalism is that they have robust internal processes for self-criticism.

You seem to have an agenda to try and prove that journalism as a vocation is fundamentally broken, and this leads you to make hyperbolic statements and clutch at strawmen.

Take a look a little deeper and you'll see that journalism is a profession with ethical standards and is actually pretty robust and, perhaps, even honourable - it's the funding and business models that are the issue, but the actual practice is quite sound.

> A key part of this professionalism is that they have robust internal processes for self-criticism.

I am not observing any evidence of such processes existing. In fact, I am observing exactly the opposite - people freely moving between being political operatives and newspeople, political parties coordinating propaganda campaigns with friendly news anchors, known news personalities being openly hyper-partisan and not being challenged on it in their organization, independent thinking people being forced out (e.g. Sharyl Attkisson) and so on. I don't see any self-criticism going on.

> You seem to have an agenda to try and prove that journalism as a vocation is fundamentally broken

Journalism as a vocation is not broken. Journalists as a practitioners of the profession as it is practiced now are. Yes, there exist professional journalists, who do what they are supposed to do, honestly. Many of them. But now they are going against the stream, and working against the odds. And one has to be blind to not see that situation is getting worse, the trust in media reporting is dropping and the quality of news content coming from major outlets is terrible. You can call it "broken" or you can call it "temporary difficulties which do not influence averages which are still excellent" but its in plain view for everybody to see. And it's not my agenda - there are a lot of people around recognizing the same. Otherwise we wouldn't need special startups to do what journalists were supposed to do.

> you'll see that journalism is a profession with ethical standards

Ideally, yes. However, I don't see these standards being really enforced or even seriously heeded to. Very rarely I see any analysis done on bad reporting, and only in a case the organization was externally caught and called out on it. Maybe you're right and I am focusing on the visible outliers, but it seems to be that there are too many "outliers"...

Wikitribune IS going to go toe-to-toe against CNN and WP. It's proposing a new news model where you pay for news by donations.

Wikitribune's professed goal to raise enough money to pay 10 print journalists. That seems like a big stretch?

If online news could subsist on donations alone then it would in the form of subscriptions.

That's my impression as well. I was responding to an article title that has since been marked duplicate.

CNN gives no facts.. just agenda driven propaganda.. Wapo too.. of all the news sites you pick those two?

So - top story on CNN right now is http://edition.cnn.com/2017/04/25/asia/north-korea-artillery...

No facts there?

Top story on WashPo - https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/white-house-confide...

Fact free?

I'm not particularly fond of either, which is why I presented them as examples of why we need better journalism :)

To me both organizations embody a mediocre beltway mentality that isn't beholden to any one party or caucus. It's a thought process that props up lobbyists and thinktank lickspittles as overnight "experts" on whatever country we're thinking about bombing next. They're the kind of rags that will call Kissinger "a statesman" in his obituary. They present heated debated nestled snugly within the Overton Window to mask a neoliberal consensus. Not a fan at all.

ah gotcha ya were on the same page lol..

CNN gives no facts.. just agenda driven propaganda.. Wapo too.. of all the news sites you pick those two?

Are the facts more important or are the topics? For example, the NYT is generally pretty factual however IMO the topics they select and placement in the periodical are the message.

So the fact that they write front page article on some terrorist attack in say France that kills 5 while a similar drone strike on the same day in Afganistan kills 20 and gets buried on page 30 is the point.

Who was is that once said the first casualty in any war is truth? And how many blows did we miss that lead to that first casualty?

Regardless, I see little downside to this and hope it's successful!

This is the root question. The discussion around fake news often touches the subject of press neutrality. Some will say mainstream press is biased and has an agenda, so-called mainstream will answer by proposing more fact-checking. However, truth and neutrality are situated in different dimensions. It seems to be relatively easy to avoid spreading lies for those who want to. Providing neutral news is an entirely different type of problem. Addressing the critics made to the press by promising fact-checked news might be perceived as only one more manifestation of unjust discretionary power of the press to determine what can be said.

Is striving for neutrality something the press should do? Or should it work on clarifying how biased it is, and why?

The first thing to do is get the press to admit bias.

Bias is fine. Everyone is biased. Journalism in other countries works fine with admission of opinions. Just own your own viewpoints and quit pretending to be some neutral third party.

The important thing is to take the fiction off the table. "Of course we sound like marginally liberal establishment-supporters - we're the NYT." "Naturally we support the revanchists - we're Fox."

(See? My bias is up front.)

>> Some will say mainstream press is biased and has an agenda

The people that say that are generally conservatives (or a subset of conservatives). Liberals generally don't complain about the mainstream media being biased. I'm just pointing out that the idea of the mainstream press being biased and having an agenda is itself biased and has an agenda.

>> so-called mainstream will answer by proposing more fact-checking.

Fact checking is supposed to be automatic. When a mainstream news outlet gets caught reporting false information, it's a big embarrassment. The NY Times had the Jayson Blair incident a few years ago and it really stung. The Times also apologized for over-hyping the Iraq War[1].

>> Is striving for neutrality something the press should do? Or should it work on clarifying how biased it is, and why?

High quality news outlets already strive to do both. "Honest news" isn't a new idea; it has always been a part of journalistic ethics.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/26/world/from-the-editors-th...

>The people that say that are generally conservatives (or a subset of conservatives). Liberals generally don't complain about the mainstream media being biased.


Its easy to use real facts to lie. This is IMO the MSM approach to fake news.

"We know exactly everything about nothing that matters" 2017

One thing Jimbo said in the Wired interview he did is that since the site will be crowdsourced, the donors will be able to decide what the journalists cover. So more niche topics might get covered this way if there is demand (the example he gave was "dog breeding").

Yeah if that's the case I'm guessing 100% of the donations are going to go towards shitting on Trump.

I wouldn't be so sure. Talk is cheap. Once you select for people who are willing to make a donation, I bet you'll end up with a fair share of actual grown-ups who want to talk about real news.

I'd argue relative importance facts are more important than topics. Incorrect facts is more fundamental form of bias and topic bias is higher level.

Getting facts wrong constantly is either incompetent journalism or malevolent behavior.

Selecting topics with bias but reporting them accurately creates value for everyone and the bias is rarely malevolent in mainstream media. It just reflects and enforces the world view of the writers and readers.

This feels like Vox - another attempt to 'explain the news', or 'provide more context'.

The fundamental problem that these sites run into is a thorough understanding of issues in the news requires context, and very often not the kind of context that can fit into an 800 word blog post on a subject.

An 800 word blog or article of any sort necessitates that you're going to make choices about which evidence you're going to include, which sources are credible and which sources are not, which sources add to the discussion vs which only serve to obscure. As soon as you do that, you're adding bias.

You can set out to build an 'evidence based' news site, but what you quickly find is that you've built a site with paid journalists (who have their own biases) supported by volunteers (who are the people most likely to have political skin in the game).

The problem is that people want a shortcut for everything - they want an 800 word post that will tell them everything they need to know about Syria. No such thing exists. There's no substitute for actually putting in the work and navigating the bias yourself.

I understand what they're trying to do here, but beyond the problem of "fake news" there appears to be a deep crisis within the profession of Journalism itself. Wales is correct, in my opinion, that the proximate cause of this crisis is indeed social media. (If you don't agree just ask yourself how often you visit the masthead of whatever newspaper you typically read, and why that might be the case.) But I just don't see crowd-sourcing as the solution to this problem. I'm inclined to agree with @intended's diagnosis, and I feel like the solution has to come from the profession of Journalism itself.

So, in attempt to not be "that guy" that just complains here's what I'd suggest as a start.

- Institutions need to drop their relationship with Facebook et al (The Guardian has just done this [1]).

- There's a few places (and in the interest of avoiding starting a flame war, I'll forgo naming them explicitly) that parade themselves as "objective" sources of news by telling you they're explaining "complicated" concepts in digestible ways. In my view, that's just a rhetorical tactic to disguise what is actually just advocacy journalism. It's not objective at all, and seeks to form your opinion rather than present you with data from which you form your own. These places need to either be shut down, or pivot back to what we'd traditionally consider actual reporting.

- I consider myself reasonably well read, and read the actual, physical paper daily (when I can, I suppose). There is a distinct difference between the content I see pushed on the internet and what's in the traditional paper and it's this: increasingly articles that belong on the opinion pages are pushed elsewhere, probably because they know it'll generate more clicks elsewhere on the site because it makes either a controversial or marginally supported claim. In my view this directly contributes to the loss of faith people have in the Journalistic profession because it's just so damn easy to point out instances of bias. So, hire some old school editors and fire the "social media" guy and put content where it belongs.

That's just what I can think of off the top of my head right now, but I'm pretty convinced that "crowd-sourcing" is not the answer to this problem.

[1] http://digiday.com/media/guardian-pulls-facebooks-instant-ar...

> Wales is correct, in my opinion, that the proximate cause of this crisis is indeed social media.

I don't think social media has much to do with it. I think the confusion between the professions of journalist, entertainer and partisan political operative has much more to do with it.

> If you don't agree just ask yourself how often you visit the masthead of whatever newspaper

Why would it be important if I visit the masthead? That's like saying libraries are in crisis because people don't spend enough time in the lobby. That's not why one visits the library! The frontpage is an utilitarian tool, and if people can do without it, nobody cares.

> These places need to either be shut down

I don't think they should be shut down. If there's an audience for them, why not? Nothing "should be shut down" - if it has no audience, it will die off, it it does have one - it should serve it. The problem here is the audience of "give us facts and let us form opinion" is woefully underserved. This is solved by creating, not shutting down.

> So, hire some old school editors and fire the "social media" guy

Social media guy didn't write that awfully biased article. Some "journalist" did, the social media guy just posted the link on twitter. So why the social media guy should suffer? "Journalists" that do bad job should be called out and shamed, and social media is not where the blame should go. Hard to believe, but twitter can be used for good too, if only people would want to...

Source of funding is the key. Social media enabled the idea that news could be free, and that's where the dominoes started falling. The signal to the news company is that they need to keep pushing out articles which people click on or share. The incentive of reputation and prestige got replaced by click-baity and virtue signalling.

True to some measure, but not completely - there are still degrees of click-baity-ness and not all media companies are like buzzfeed or gawker and publish exclusively in the style of "15 reasons why your biases are completely justified and anybody who disagrees with you are evil, #8 will shock you!". There are media companies that make conscious effort to do better - it's just they think that doing better means shaping the news to help the audience to arrive to "right" conclusions. They think this is their social responsibility, not to inform, but to form "good" opinions and to destroy "bad" ones. Combined with natural grouthink that arises in organizations having no focus on thought diversity (which are pretty much all news orgs) it produces a very distinctive mindset, which, as I noted in other place, is not just about money - it's about doing what they genuinely perceive as the right thing.

In essence, they think the masses are too stupid to be fed bare truth, and need to be put on a carefully selected diet of curated truths, half-truths and sometimes outright lies, in service of a noble goal. I'd like to have the informers back instead.

It's obvious to me that in the search for more clicks, driven by social media, the lines between those professions you pointed out have gotten blurred. I think the masthead is a good touch point because it shows that few organically go to nyt.com (or wsj, or whatever) and then choose articles to read anymore...they just wind up on the article site from links through social media.

The masthead is much different than a lobby. It used to be method to signal what was important to know about what's going on in the world right now. Now we get those signals through the algorithms on Facebook. That's a problem.

Shut down might be harsh, but at a minimum they need to drop the pretense of objectivity.

You don't think the quest for clicks has come from the social media side of the house, and that that has influenced both the content and headlines that journalists write? People respond to incentives, and if the flashy and click-baity article is getting pushed journalists will respond with more flashy and click-baity articles.

> Now we get those signals through the algorithms on Facebook. That's a problem.

You are assuming that the person doing NYT frontpage must do a better job, at least in regard to giving me an accurate, complete and informative picture of the world. But what if it's not true? What if that person has an agenda to sway my opinion and bring me to a conclusion that person needs? What if that person's goal is not to inform me but to make me vote for certain candidate or support certain law or hate certain person? Why would I then trust that person and use the frontpage as my gateway to the world?

The signal is only good if it's signaling what I want. But I don't think it's the case nowadays.

> a minimum they need to drop the pretense of objectivity.

They are pretty much already done with it. At least nobody believes such claims anymore.

> You don't think the quest for clicks has come from the social media side of the house

It's certainly not from social media - everybody loves clicks. The thing is, the rise of sites like Snopes or Politifact showed there are clicks in trying to be unbiased and informative too. Maybe a bit less clicks, but there definitely are some. Yet, those clicks do not seem to be all that attractive.

I think it has to do much more with journalistic mindset shifting from duty to inform and disseminate the truth, to some kind of paternalistic mindset of making people form the "right" opinions, where truth that may "mislead" people into a "wrong" opinion is ok to hide, and a falsity that helps the "right" cause is ok to promote. I think it's much more an ideological motive than pecuniary one.

I can't really disagree with anything you wrote here, though I'd say that with Snopes and Politifact the clicks are in people thinking you're trying to be unbiased.

>I think it has to do much more with journalistic mindset shifting from duty to inform and disseminate the truth, to some kind of paternalistic mindset of making people form the "right" opinions...

Yeah that's what I'm getting at by criticizing the "explainers". That's exactly what they do...try to get you to have the right opinions. I'm probably giving people too much credit by only referencing the incentive structures, and ignoring or not acknowledging that they are also ideological motives at play.

Social media gives the partisan political operatives you start off with a platform to gain an audience. Then they can confuse themselves with journalists and entertainers.

But sure, let's talk about social media as another place where news orgs post things.

> In my view this directly contributes to the loss of faith people have in the Journalistic profession

I'd add that your second point also contributes to loss of faith: When propagandists call their publications journalism, and when other journalists treat them seriously, it brings down the credibility of all journalism. If any quack could call themself a heart surgeon then it would hurt the credibility of real heart surgeons.

Also, when people see their side publishing propaganda, they assume that all journalism is propaganda: One side says this, the other says that, it's all the same (that thinking is an explicit goal of propaganda - not to persuade but to discredit everyone, leaving no source of truth). But it's not the same; truth has real meaning and value, an only liars say 'well, everyone lies'.

> If any quack could call themself a heart surgeon then it would hurt the credibility of real heart surgeons.

I'm afraid here we have a different situation - where heart surgeon behaves as a quack because she thinks it would convince you to do things that she things are right for you. You, of course, can say "well, she's a surgeon, so she always knows better and I should not ever doubt her, even if what she says sounds like complete quackery". But many people are not ready to surrender their autonomy so readily.

> WikiTribune is 100% ad-free, no one’s relying on clicks to appease advertisers; no one’s got a vested interest in anything other than giving you real news.

Ha! Oh c'mon, anyone who's experienced the activistism of certain groups on Wikipedia knows there's plenty of people with a vested interest in this kind of thing.

I love the idea of trying a new business model for news delivery, especially one centered around facts.

I seriously hope this project can overcome the prevalent, subtle biases in media. For instance, every single headline from the recent French election mentioned "far-right" Le Pen without also mentioning any ideological affiliation of the other candidates. Painting your opponent as an extremist is an effective political tactic, and "far-right" certainly sounds extreme. Were most media outlets opposed to Le Pen, hence the extreme label? Why not label any other candidates?

I'm not necessarily optimistic about the prospects for unbiased news, but I will be watching this project as it progresses.

They call her "far-right" because that's what she is. The party is called "Front National", after all – "Front" as in war. They don't mind the label. It's simply a description of fact, with the possible caveat that some of their economic ideas aren't that different from those on the far left.

The media also regularly labels the other candidates, and nobody is complaining about them any more than Clinton complained when someone said she was left of Trump, politically.

Example from the NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/23/world/europe/emmanuel-mac...

"[...]Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen to go to a runoff to determine the next president, official returns showed. One is a political novice, the other a far-right firebrand "

"Mr. Macron, a former investment banker, abandoned traditional parties a year ago to form his own movement with an eclectic blend of left and right policies."

"[...] the mainstream right candidate François Fillon had nearly 20 percent, and the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon had 19.6 percent."

As to why she is labeled "extreme", Wikipedia says:

- She favours a "radical change of politics in order to drastically reduce upstream the influx of illegal immigrants towards France"

- She supported a referendum on whether to reinstate capital punishment in France

- "But I openly admit that, to some extent, I admire Vladimir Putin."

- "I do not believe that there was an illegal annexation: there was a referendum, the citizens of Crimea wanted to join Russia."

- Denouncing "the US supremacy", she "refused the idea that France slavishly followed the USA in this new stalemate"

Why do they even need to label certain candidates? To me it just looks like propaganda, or some sort of group signalling.

It's subconsciously saying the following: "Hey don't trust this one candidate because we don't like that sort of thing and have attached a warning every time her name is mentioned. The other candidates are fine, even the extreme far left one, so no label needed - maybe we will add one for them on a rare occasion."

I'm almost certain this sort of propaganda is the reason why the public spew hatred at certain candidates, yet often cannot back up that hatred in relation to their policies or behavour. Just so you know, I'm not backing a political figure here, just pointing out what I notice when I read news websites - particularly the big outlets.

They are labelling the extreme-left candidate the "extreme-left candidate", so any narrative derived from the "extreme-right" label happens entirely in the reader's head.

Note that we're talking about the foreign press (from the French perspective) here. They certainly have a motive to want le Pen to lose, but they don't have much power in that regard.

It's also not a secret conspiracy to stop her because it's not a secret. The slice of society journalists inhabit (i. e. having a university degree, having lived abroad, having studied history) is scared to death of what a FN would entail, such as the certain death of the European Union.

Again, you're operating from a wrong understanding of both "journalism" and "objectivity". If some holocaust denier holds an event, it's their job to call them out, not to report "both sides of the debate" in some sort of fake balance.

Why should it be a journalist job to call out a holocaust denier?

Shouldn't they just report who is holding the even and what views they hold? I think most of the problem here is conflating journalists with advocates.

Front is also used by the left - Front Popular - and I think they were trying to play with that back when they named the party. It doesn't mean "war" in this context, it simply means a common side to face something else. It is frequently used when two or more parties join together temporarily.

Radical relates to root, not extremism. Extremist might be the opposite of radical, depending on the context.

There's nothing in your list that suggests extremist positions.

Far-right has a general negative connotation, so it is not the same than saying Clinton is left of Trump.

Le Pen is right of most in some areas, left of most in others. THAT is the description no one would complain about.

every single headline from the recent French election mentioned "far-right" Le Pen without also mentioning any ideological affiliation of the other candidates

That's not true. Every publication I've seen about the election results are talking about right-wing Le Pen versus centrist Macron.

They also called Mélanchon "far-left"...

Well, Mélenchon is far-left. Left is Parti Socialiste. Right is Les Républicains. Far-right is Front National.

These are the French definitions of Left and Right, and probably have nothing to do with other countries'. Based on these definitions, the Democrats are Right and Republicans are Far-right.

Whether they are good definitions, I can't say. But Mélenchon is definitely not plain Left, or Center.

Sounds a bit rhetorical. How information is "far-right" and "far-left"? Not much other than to expose a fallacious single-dimension scale.

How about terms like "left-socialist" or "right-nationalist"?

When your position is to defend a woman who doubts the French fascist government rounded up jews, your argument is probably knackered from the start.

She didn't doubt any of that. That is just false.

She was asked whether "France" was "responsible" for said round up. She said she thought not.

The reason being that France was under occupation and shouldn't therefore be considered an independent country.

In other words, the real France was represented by de Gaulle in exile in London and the Resistance, rather than Pétain in Vichy and the occupation-sanctioned government - which was who did the rounding up.

So, she didn't doubt the French "fascist" government rounded up Jews. She said that precisely because the "fascist" government was not legitimate, France as a country ought not to be considered responsible for that government's actions.

When someone dismisses an entire argument based on the other's political leaning, their own arguments should only be afforded the same courtesy they were willing to extend to their opponents.

I know this is petty, but I kinda hope they build this on better technology than MediaWiki. MediaWiki has lots of annoying pitfalls. For example, there is no native support for threaded conversations. Also they have 2 or 3 different math syntaxes and no consensus on which one should be used where.

Why not improve MediaWiki instead?

Improvement means change. Change is scary and will break workflows. People will resist.

I made big and small changes to a couple of online communities and believe me, the amount of vitriol you receive from people that are the masters of the domain they carved out for themselves will make you doubt every future decision. Even when it's objectively the right thing to do.

It reminds me a lot of the conundrum large companies have when faced with the prospect of disrupting their own cash cows.

I love the sentiment. But how does this differ from Wikinews? Is this not just arbitrarily passing the buck of "gatekeeper" to whatever people have enough free time to contribute?

This project will hire journalists who will write full time. The crowd is basically supposed to keep them honest - fact checking, criticizing tone, pointing out bias.

I'm amazed that Wikinews still exists, if only because it seems so incredibly unknown.

The amazing thing is that none of the BBC, The Financial Times, WiReD, or even The Register (whom one would think most likely to want to ask hard questions and not simply regurgitate the PR, given its coverage over the years) asked this, or even mentioned Wikinews.

How does this relate to Wikinews, a crowd-sourced newspaper that actually is connected to Wikipedia and that has been trying to put into practice much of the model being put forward here for the past twelve years? is a fairly obvious question. No journalist covering this story apparently asked it.

Seems to be overloaded right now, but I found their campaign video via search in Vimeo


This is almost exactly what "De Correspondent"[1] in The Netherlands strives to be, with regards to ads, open data and relying on experts among their readers. They announced that they'll open source their CMS but it's not available yet. Too bad really.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Correspondent

They are also working on an international version of their platform: https://thecorrespondent.com/

Hmmmm. That website is ... unconvincing. At best.

The heart of De Correspondent is our founding document from 2013 – a manifesto of sorts – and these core principles have informed how we’ve built De Correspondent ... 1. De Correspondent provides an antidote to the daily news grind. 2. De Correspondent challenges oversimplification and stereotyping.

Here are the top four headlines from the "selected stories from our archives" section on the front page:

"This is how we can fight Donald Trump’s attack on democracy"

"If Shell knew climate change was dire 25 years ago, why still business as usual today?"

"We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump"

"How billions vanish into the black hole that is the security industry"

These headlines read exactly like a typical front page of the Guardian. How is this "challenging oversimplification" or being "an antidote to the daily news grind"? I can find content like that anywhere on the internet for free, its value is literally zero.

The Manifesto itself does not seem very consistent. It says things like:

Correspondents are fair and independent, yet also explicitly subjective


De Correspondent is ambitious in its ideals, yet modest in its claims

after making a series of decidedly not modest claims. It also has this amusing statement:

Although De Correspondent is a commercial, for-profit enterprise, we do not strive to maximize profits for shareholders. A profit ceiling has been stipulated in our statutes: Any profit distribution may not be greater than 5% of revenues.

But 20 seconds googling throws up a claim that the average profit margin in the newspaper industry is around 3.2%, which sounds about right. Average profit margins across all industries are 10% but the news industry is famously in decline and laying off employees, so 10% would be far too high. Aiming for 5% profit margins as if it's some great sacrifice indicates that either they believe their readers don't know much about business, or they themselves don't know. Neither possibility makes me want to subscribe.

If this ends up being the same as data journalism, it would be great.

- http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail - home of ... data journalism

- https://careers.bloomberg.com/job/detail/47892 - seeking a ... data journalist

- https://www.usnews.com/topics/author/deidre-mcphillips - ... is a data reporter

Has potential, as a news junkie I'm interested in both using and contributing to this. Heaven knows internet news delivery needs an overhaul. Google could have solved his problem years ago but have instead chosen to profit off it.

How could Google solve this? I'm genuinely interested in what you have to say.

Site's down, but here's an article about it: http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/04/wikipedia-founder-jimmy-wal...

Does anyone here remember Jimbo's earlier big "charity" venture -- CiviliNation? Jimbo was very recently on Reddit, trying to drum up donations for Wikitribune. It was asked, how will Wikitribune be different than the CiviliNation.org non-profit that Jimmy set up with his gal-pal Andrea Weckerle? Wales replied that since he was the "primary funder" of CiviliNation, the argument that it had bilked donors of money was moot in his mind.

Let's see: CiviliNation's Form 990s from 2010-2014 total $82,428 in contributions. If Jimbo was the "primary funder", that's at least $41,215. So he attests that he donated over $41K to CiviliNation -- while Weckerle took $63,228 in salary, on total contributions of $82,428. Meaning, he basically bankrolled most of his girlfriend Andrea Weckerle's personal income from CiviliNation, which accomplished what?

CiviliNation.org is barely a functioning website any more; its blog was last updated 13 months ago. Wales was so charitably inept that he forked over $41K to a failed attempt to "fix" online civility that ultimately accomplished not much more than keeping his girlfriend in food, clothes, and shelter for a few years, with tax-deductible dollars.

Based on my observation of Jimmy Wales and Openserving, Wikia Search, CiviliNation, Impossible, and The People's Operator, I would say an easy case could be made that the man specializes in grifting and fraud.

I'm interested to see how this project evolves. As it is, even before all the furor about "fake news", I found myself consistently using Wikipedia to get summary and background information about ongoing news events, where mainstream news sources would present new data without any context and deliberately avoiding showing information about primary sources where available in favor of more internal links to other stories that give a glimpse of the point-in-time view of an ongoing story.

This is even more pronounced for retrospective coverage, where developments in the story as it had evolved are hard to glean from the coverage at the time, but important facts are surfaced throughout the coverage that are often elided in a retrospective published by a news source, but are well-represented, even controversially (where facts disagree or question the overall narrative).

My main complaint about the current trend in journalism (under Trump) is that the desire to sell clicks is so strong that you get no idea whether anything that happens is highly unusual or just routine, but the negative spin is so heavy that I can no longer trust that I'm being told how unusual each event is unless I really dig into it to find out.

A great example is the ongoing harassment of international travelers in the US. The impression I get is that things have gotten much worse, but there's certainly ample evidence of unpleasant behavior even under previous administrations, and some slim cherry-picked data saying that it's gotten worse. This is clearly a space where better sourcing of primary sources would help to make things a lot clearer, and to an extent, a somewhat adversarial approach to news research would help to reduce the tendency towards alarmism.

Supporting Wikitribune means ensuring that that journalists only write articles based on facts that they can verify

This is hardly the only source of bias in the news, which is an age-old problem. We'd be better off just expecting news organizations to announce their bias up front so that we don't have to read between the lines in order to ferret out its nuances.

It's also unclear what he means by "facts they can verify"

Wales founded an encyclopedia on the basis that everything had to be "verified" by linking to a "secondary source", which in the case of recent events generally meant linking to a news report by a "reliable" subset of the same media Wikitribune aims to compete with.

The other alternative, of course, is to link purely to primary sources like Open Data, online video and public figures' Twitter feeds for recording the fact they made an announcement. Wikipedia tended to frown on such behaviour largely because a "WP:SYNTH" policy recognised that stringing together multiple facts often implied decidedly non-factual conclusions (and if no other reliable source had drawn together those facts then it probably wasn't important and quite possibly wasn't a valid inference to be drawing). And whilst "X responded that" is certainly a fact, whether X's statement can reasonably be interpreted as accurate is generally a matter of opinion. Unqualified reporting of "X said $contentiousclaims" because they can't be conclusively established as non-factual is itself an editorial stance.

Most news media doesn't exactly hide its biases though (and the worst news media for factual accuracy tends to be the most explicit about declaring it)

Also 'verify' doesn't mean much. Even flat earthers can verify everything they believe in.

No. That's not 'verifying' at all. They are dismissing facts and make it all come down to something you have to 'believe'. Religion works the same way.

I know a christian biologist that steadfastly refuses to belive in any type of evolution. We talked for hours about it, and he is convinced he is intellectually correct. Never underestimate cognative dissonance.

It concerns me that they don't know the difference between 'lead' and 'led'.

Otherwise I love the idea that there must be an attributable source to all information they present -- no more "senior government officials" or "anonymous FBI agents"...

Sometimes anonymous sources are the only way you can cover a story. For example, during my time as a local journalist I regularly had former and current employees of my local council leak information to me. But I couldn't name them so I would refer to them as 'senior council officials' or 'council insiders'.

> Sometimes anonymous sources are the only way you can cover a story

Then don't. Source won't go on record? Then they aren't a source.

That's not how it always works.

I once had a source come to me with information about how families were being shipped in to my town from another city because the housing crisis affecting the UK meant local councils could not house residents locally.

In another case, I was given salary details for council employees who were being paid in a similar manner to this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/02/nhs-chief-on-reco....

In one other case a council employee told me how morale was low in the council's social services department due to pressure from senior officials and the workload. The source said there were concerns over how this was affecting the welfare of the children they were meant to look after.

In all three cases the stories checked out and in the published story I wrote that the initial information came from an unnamed source. In the housing case I was able to speak to some of the families and they went on record. In the payroll case I published the salaries and the council did not say my information was false. In the social services case they gave us a statement.

The problem with using anonymous sources comes when journalists use them as an excuse for publishing unverified information. If my sources had gone on record they would have most likely have lost their jobs meaning future whistle-blowers/sources would not have spoken to me or would have not spoken to other journalists in the future. If that happens how can institutions and individuals be held to account?

Direct evidence is a substitute. But take this example:

> in one other case a council employee told me how morale was low

How can you verify this is true? How did you check it out?

On that particular point I made a judgement call based on the fact that previous information this source had given me had checked out. The issue of low morale among social workers is a topic that has been widely discussed over the years in the UK along with that of high caseloads. Other people in the town I had spoken to in the health and social care industry also expressed similar sentiment about the state of social services. One of the first 'anonymous source' stories I did at the paper was about the social services and police dropping the ball in a child abuse case where a father impregnated his daughter. So that was the context of my judgement on that particular point.

I was excited to read the announcement. Then I discovered it is not really ready to go. This gives me the impression that it is half baked. That's really not the impression they should be making with something so important.

I tried to register as a supporter. Upon submitting my credit card, I got a CloudFlare error. I have no idea what was supposed to happen when I registered.

When I received the confirmation email, I clicked the "confirm" button, was asked to prove I was human by identifying photos of gas stations, then taken to the website of impossible.com instead of WikiTribune.

Reinventing the wheel, or in this case, reinventing the square wheel.

Wikitribune solves a problem, just not the problem they have defined as the target.

They've used a naive view of the problem; the model under this ignores the existence of antagonists and too much faith in crowd sourcing difficult problems.

Antagonists will prey on services like this, and off the top of my head, here's 2 ways in which such a service can be made biased.

1) baseless accusations, oft repeated. Find the facts inimical to your (the antagonists) position. Ignore them.

Find facts which are borderline, and have dog whistle properties - highlight these facts ad nauseum. Say that "Wikitribune is biased". Repeat till it sticks.

Then target the facts inimical to you.

2) flood the service with facts that serve your cause- humans have only so much working memory.


The particular structure wikitribune has chosen, will result in issues. There's a reason print news papers had an editor and a whole staff dedicated to working together.

With volunteers there's no structure, and that causes failures, just consider the Boston bomber case. Of course with a journalist in the mix the assumption is that they will push back.

But the structure is supposedly egalitarian, which just means that this is going to end up causing the same politicking, and admin arguing that plagues Wikipedia.

Recruit everyone, don't get volunteers. Get the whole team.

> Articles are authored, fact-checked, and verified by professional journalists and community members working side by side as equals, and supported not primarily by advertisers, but by readers who care about good journalism enough to become monthly supporters

The wisdom of the crowd fails all too often. As another article recently discussed, it's 5% of the people that take up most of your time.

How will this structure deal with truly divisive news articles? Or people who have conflicts (and conflicts of interest) within the group?

How will you deal with the fact that one day someone can say "volunteer X was a pedophile from <country>!"

Kudos for trying it.

This looks like a propaganda machine which will use the wiki brand about to be born.

I'd rather give this a shot than just shut it down with the cynical negativity that we oft see on HN. There are obvious faults like you have pointed out, but we have to try something to get us out of the the situation we're in.

This is the first honest effort I've seen that has some credibility.

There's many efforts which have credibility, and just because it has jimmy wales name on it doesn't make it credible.

Heres a previous discussion on the "fake news" problem with a far more credible start, because theyve actually got a better idea of the problem, and so are targetting an achievable goal -


discussed here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13542428, in February.

This isn't cynicism. I'm long long past that. This current media scenario has been cooking for more than 2 decades.

Creating a less strict media structure will not fix it.

Fake news is not a tech problem. It's better solved by incentive structures than nonexistant AI.

Which is a conclusion shared to an extent by the fake challenge, as stated on the front page I linked

>Assessing the veracity of a news story is a complex and cumbersome task, even for trained experts [3].

>Fortunately, the process can be broken down into steps or stages. A helpful first step towards identifying fake news is to understand what other news organizations are saying about the topic. We believe automating this process, called Stance Detection, could serve as a useful building block in an AI-assisted fact-checking pipeline. So stage #1 of the Fake News Challenge (FNC-1) focuses on the task of Stance Detection.

In a nutshell, this interaction is the problem with the news cycle, and its the audience as much as its the reporting. Most people don't click on the link.

--- From the FAQ, lower down the page -


ANSWER: There are several reasons Stance Detection makes for a good first task for the Fake News Challenge:

Our extensive discussions with journalists and fact checkers made it clear both how difficult “truth labeling” of claims really is, and how they’d rather have reliable semi-automated tool to help them in do their job better rather than fully-automated system whose performance will inevitably fall far short of 100% accuracy.

Truth labeling also poses several large technical / logistical challenge for a contest like the FNC:

There exists very little labeled training data of fake vs. real news stories. The data that does exist (e.g. fact checker website archives) is almost all copyright protected. The data that does exist is extremely diverse and unstructured, making hard to train on. Any dataset containing claims with associated “truth” labels is going to be contested as biased. Together these make the truth labeling task virtually impossible with existing AI / NLP. In fact, even people have trouble distinguishing fake news from real news.

The dataset we are using to support the Stance Detection task for FNC-1 was created by accredited journalists, making it both high quality and credible. It is also in the public domain. Variants of the FNC-1 Stance Detection task have already been explored and proven feasible but far from trivial by Andreas Vlachos & his students from U. of Sheffield. Cite: Ferreira & Vlachos (2016) & Augenstein et al. (2016). We considered targeting the truth labeling task for the FNC-1, but without giving teams any labeled training data. We decided against it both because we thought a competition with a more traditionally structured Machine learning tasks would appeal to more teams, and because such an open-ended truth labeling competition was recently completed, called the Fast & Furious Fact Check Challenge. Our discussions with human fact checkers lead us to believe that a solution to the stance detection problem could form the basis of a useful tool for real-life human fact checkers. Also see, next question/answer.

thats a substantially more thought out approach to the problem than Wikitribune.

It's a bit disingenuous to assume that they are ignoring the problem of adversarial actors. Jimmy Wales, through his experience with Wikipedia, is probably more aware of these issues – and potential solutions – than pretty much anyone else on this planet. Also, your arguments could equally be used to argue that something like Wikipedia cannot work but we know that this is not the case. Is this going to be easy? No. Is it worth trying? Most definitely.

But thats the key difference - wikipedia is not the news, and the news is not an encyclopedia.

This is essentially the same sales pitch that gave us bloggers as journalists, which we already know did not create an alternative to the system (well depending on your perspective I guess)

There's many things worth trying, but as I said - this set up solves a problem, just not the problem at the heart of their mission statement

I think Wales recognized the key difference between Wikipedia and news and that's precisely why he's is proposing a new format that is distinctly different from Wikipedia's format and from blogs.

Their mission statement is the following:

> We want to make sure that you read fact-based articles that have a > real impact in both local and global events. And that stories can be > easily verified and improved.

You earlier said that adversaries will just repeat falsehoods until they are perceived as being true but even endless repetition will not make sources and evidence magically appear. Could you please elaborate on why you think they will fail to achieve their goals?

1) I have provided examples of how adversaries can manipulate the naive implementation described above. Countering one example shouldn't be seen as countering the class.

2) to answer your specific question - self referential information loops already exist.

News paper makes a claim, claim is put onto Wikipedia. That claim is repeated by other websites, which in then use wikipedia as the source.

How will wiki tribune solve this?

By doing longform research? Going out in the field and finding the facts?

That's not what this setup is good for. It assumes that fact checkers can check facts, at the speed of the current news cycle.

Fact is that this verification can't be done fast enough and broad enough to cover ground to be useful, unless it gets a multi billion dollar investment.

It doesn't have to solve it perfectly and in every case. But by building a human apparatus it can apply human ingenuity at scale to tackle the problem.

Wikipedia mainly fails around the margins. Yes, initially bad actors can game the system. But success brings more attention and eventually the problems are fixed.

But the margins are the issue here, and this is all at the frequency of the news cycle. Take a look at the objections put together at the top of the comment tree on this page. They point out exactly why this won't work.

Do consider that this has to happen at the speed of the news cycle!

This means that volunteers and journos have to report fast enough to be relevant or helpful. Thats a lot less time for volunteers to fact check or respond.

The goal does not have to be to ascertain and adjudicate truth. It only has to detect attempts to deceive. Right now we don't have a good way of doing that other than everybody building up their own internal filter.

Perfection is the enemy of the good.

> But thats the key difference - wikipedia is not the news, and the news is not an encyclopedia.

To go one step further: Wherever Wikipedia actually does approach the vicinity of "news" (i.e. articles about current events/politics/persons etc.), it has been shown time and again to be prone to manipulation just like your scenarios for wikitribune, and that it actually doesn't work very well in this area.

This reminds me of the famous Huey Long quote:

"One of these days the people of Louisiana are going to get good government - and they aren't going to like it."

If there ever is a 'paper' that publishes the full unvarnished un-redacted truth about everything, it will have very many enemies, some of them very powerful.

If only it would load again (too much traffic I presume). I'm prepared to fork over some serious cash.

All these efforts have the same issue that existing media outlets have: why should they be more trustworthy than the existing media? All the newspapers in existence already claim that their number #1 goal is to report the truth. We all know they tend to fail miserably.

That's actually explained in the video. Wales says that news media don't have the resources to produce high-quality output because the competition for clicks is so fierce. WikiTribune addresses this in two ways: First, they don't participate in said competition for clicks because they won't run on ads but donations. In other words, their customer is the reader who has an interest in quality. Second, they recruit citizen journalists who can help produce articles that a traditional news business would not be able to afford. Just paraphrasing. Watch the video.

I don't think money is the issue. Journalists have their own agenda and tweak and omit accordingly.

There is barely any human on this planet without an agenda. Not sure what your point is. Is it that we should stop trying new experiments with news because some humans are involved?

No, they shouldn't claim they are better and have no agenda. My point is these projects are bound to fail.

Of course they will be "helpful" to some - after all, everybody picks some sources they trust. So if you feel you can trust the WikiThingie, then I guess it is helpful to you. Just don't make any glorious claims about beating fake news.

Seems like a great way to cite secondary sources. How does this model work for a primary source?

Anyone know why this is an independent project instead of being part the Wikimedia foundation?

> Wales, who sits on the board of Guardian Media Group, the Guardian’s parent company, founded Wikipedia with Larry Sanger in 2001, before donating the entire project to a non-profit organisation, the Wikimedia Foundation, that he set up in 2003.


Yes, YOU, and me. We can all do our own research to discern what is fake or not.

"Facts can be presented with bias, taken out of context and most recently a lot of facts are just plain…made-up. Supporting Wikitribune means ensuring that that journalists only write articles based on facts that they can verify."

Honourable aims for this project, however once you are literally only reporting the presented facts (without bias - aka opinion) surely you are just a Wire Service?

Are you saying that news media aren't doing more than just adding opinion to facts? Opinion does play a role but the main function and purpose of news media is to contextualize facts which would be useless when presented out of context. This process may introduce some bias but it doesn't have to.

we need more "just a wire service" please

absolutely. it is just that WikiTribune is not presenting itself that way at all

My BS detector tells me WikiTribune will fail but will collect lots of money from gullible CrowdFunders. Sorry, no evidence to justify that conclusion apart from the fact that at the moment it's a bit like watching a video of some device floating in a river that somehow against the law of physics is going to power a small village :-)

Wikipedia has pretty much ruined the encyclopedia by driving it down to the lowest common denominator. I look forward to them doing the same for news.

Except a Nature study comparing Wikipedia to the Encyclopedia Britannica found them comparable in accuracy. [0] It's also funny that you think a lot of news hasn't already reached that point.

[0]: https://www.cnet.com/news/study-wikipedia-as-accurate-as-bri...

What checks does the Wiki model offer against, say, a 4chan-style brigading? I love the idea, I just want it to be bulletproof too.

Nothing is ever completely bulletproof. The real question is whether this is better than or a useful addition to the more traditional news media. I think there is a good chance that it will be.

The same wikipedia has. Algorithms to detect vandalism. People responsible for groups of pages. Wages of such people paid for by donations to ensure they don't yurn biased themselves.

Tried to make a donation. Hit the button and then got an endless "please wait" message. UPDATE: oh no I killed it.

I managed to make a recurring donation after two attempts.

I tried to donate and got a 503 after inputting my credit card. Guess I'll wait for that to settle out for a while...

Ran into the same issue. I received a purchase notification from my credit card, but now I don't know if I donated or not...

Same issue, but I got through and got a receipt for my sub and donation. Just keep trying. It seems to be up at this moment.

The premise that the news was truthful before the internet and we need to go back to having gatekeepers is comical

How is a 28 year old fashion model exactly going to advise them on anything related to journalism?

On the bottom right side of the page you can see "Powered by Impossible" which is her website.

Anybody else getting stuck after the payment screen? I ended up getting a cloudflare error...

I would support it if it weren't down.

It up now and the "become a supporter" section seems to work again.

Am I just daft or do I not see any sort of workflow described? Do I need to watch the video?

Lily Cole is an advisor against fake news?

I'd never heard of her, so I read about her on Wikipedia[0].. the impossible.com involvement seems relevant to this.


Somehow she managed to find time to get a double first from Cambridge whilst also being really pretty and an actress, so I think that probably at least slightly qualifies her for some vague element of credibility.

Since 'History is a Myth' and she has a double 1st in Art History then I guess she is qualified

Wikipedia was the original fake news. For instance, someone might edit an article to say that a person was a known political extremist. Someone else might write an article (not on Wikipedia) saying the same thing (after having read the Wikipedia article). Years later, if the information is questioned on Wikipedia, then editors will add a reference to the off-wiki article, and everyone will be happy. Circular fake news, with truth going down the plughole. The entropic heat death of information.

I've looked at large articles I contributed to a few years ago and they are now disasters. Full of bowdlerisation, inconsistent style, and false snippets of information. I think the abusive nature of many Wikipedia admins, and the hostility of Wikipedia itself to knowledge, will eventually just make it a 4chan with pretentions.

truth != fact

It's a fact that 100% of the people I recently surveyed said that the Moon was made of green cheese - I only asked my 6 year-old grand-daughter :-)


Wow. What a terrible start. I'd expect something a little more robust given the obvious attention it would attract.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact