Monday, June 20, 2005

Wikitorial unplugged

Here's the message now up on the L.A. Times' "wikitorial" site:

Where is the Wikitorial?
Unfortunately, we have had to remove this feature, at least temporarily, because a few readers were flooding the site with inappropriate material.

Thanks and apologies to the thousands of people who logged on in the right spirit.
Another experiment in "citizen journalism" gone bad, like the problems the Ventura County Star had recently? No, I don't think so, any more than the VC's rethinking of things and retooling to get its comment pages back up showed a failure.

What is shows is what we've known -- or should have known -- all along:
  1. If you build it, they won't necessarily write.
  2. Those who do write are bound to be passionate one way or another. Passion makes for lively conversations, not always civil ones.
  3. There are a significant number people who are just plain po'd at us and want to get it off their chests. These are the people we need to pay attention to. They likely are the ones who might have been our readers -- until we started squandering the public trust.
  4. Thre are also a few borderline personalities out there just looking for a forum.
  5. No one said this was going to be easy -- or cheap. The idea that somehow we could open things up and put it on autopilot is a dream, just as is the vision of the late 1990s of the "multiskilled reporter" who was the journalistic equivalent of Edward Scissorhands. It takes time, it takes money, it takes people to pull it off.
  6. It's the right thing to do. Yes, we're going to have our cuts along the way. Some may be deep and we will hurt. But ultimately we will gain respect for having tried, and ultimately we will find things and ways that work to get people more involved in the work we say we are doing for them every day.
I hope the Times tries this experiment again. As noted previously, there might be at least two other options:
  • Restrict the wiki to those who want to take issue with your editorial. When I looked at the early versions, the oppoising wiki was much more focused, thoughtful and thought-provoking.
  • Give people a quasi-wiki. Let them take a copy of your editorial and rewrite it individually. Then you have a gallery of opinions without the possible offense of having one person change another's work. (As noted on my initial review, some of the changes as they evolved seemed more like tinkering than editing.)


At 6/21/05, 12:00 AM, Blogger Jon Garfunkel said...

Seems like the LA Times could have considered this beforehand, no?


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