The community submitted, edited and free for users Wikipedia has been around for a few years now. Google ranks Wikipedia as the fifth most trafficked site on the web. The Wiki brand recently leaped into another international controversy with WikiLeaks’ publication of secret U.S. military Afghan war documents.
And now, the next Wiki on the scene is WikiFactCheck, a wiki site created by journalist Andrew Lih. Wikis are open-content sites, which allow users to edit and submit the information published on the pages. Lih is an associate professor of journalism and new media director at the University of Southern California. He also wrote the 2009 nonfiction book about Wikipedia called the Wikipedia Revolution.
Lih emailed iMediaEthics that he hopes his WikiFactCheck can offer a “neutral ground where the facts, and hopefully the truth, can be sorted out.”
Lih’s “long term goal” for the site is to have immediate fact checking available for “any television newscast, website, or digital media news product.” That way, “information consumers could immediately evaluate the truth value of what they are consuming,” Lih wrote in response to questions from iMediaEthics
The project was partially inspired by NYU professor Jay Rosen’s challenge to fact check the Sunday morning talk shows. The shows, like “Meet the Press,” “This Week” and “Face the Nation,” often serve as a platform for the shows’ guests to make assertions that sometimes aren’t accurate.
“Long recognized for their flawed formula, the weekly news interviews have become a way for politicians to present distorted or misleading statements and statistics, with news organizations unable (or unwilling) to do rebuttals during a live television show, ” Lih wrote.
In March, ABC’s “This Week” took the bait and partnered with Politifact. But, Politifact’s fact checks aren’t available immediately; rather, “This Week” watchers have to wait until at least the next day to find out where statements made on the show fall on the “Truth-O-Meter,” Poltifact’s scaling of truth: true, half true, barely true, false, pants-on-fire, etc.
While media writers have supported the fact checking, some still see room for improvement. Media ethics site Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) in May called out for fact checking activities to move their focus from verifying trivial facts to more serious issues. And, at the time, progressive media watchdog Media Matters also criticized The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz for attempting to be too even-handed in his fact checking of the Sunday shows. Media Matters found that Kurtz seemed to go “out of his way” to equally verify statements made by Republicans and Democrats.
Other Sunday morning shows, like “Meet the Press,” didn’t embrace Rosen’s fact checking idea and continue to expect the audience to verify statements made during the show, Lih wrote, so WikiFactCheck can step in to provide that service. Users can log on to WikiFactCheck and edit or create pages checking the veracity of statements or facts not only made on the Sunday shows, but made anywhere — in a news article, on the Internet, and so on.
Lih told iMediaEthics that so far, the site’s users and editors have been “veteran Wikipedia editors” because they already are comfortable and knowledgeable of the Wiki set up. But , “the near term users of WikiFactCheck will likely be ‘news junkies’ or those who do deeper engagement with the news.”
One can already visit WikiFactCheck, but the site is currently under development. The site’s homepage consists of “brainstorming” ideas and suggestions for the site. The”public launch” of the site is tentatively set for September, according to WikiFactCheck’s development timeline.