Sunday, May 04, 2008

Anemone of the state

With apologies to Moulton for the technical glitches of Not the Wikipedia Weekly, Episode 11, here's the transcript of our text chat that ran concurrently with the voice recording. Moulton has given reprint permission, and he's agreed to the tongue-in-cheek title for this post.

Moulton (who appears as Barry Kort in the transcript) is currently sitebanned from Wikipedia (or indefinitely blocked; the distinction can be a little vague). He's a highly educated fellow--the sort of person I'd like to bring back if it's possible. Not to get into the details of that here, I think he offered some of the best questions in the session. The "Brian" we're referring to is Brian Bergstein, a reporter for the Associated Press who joined the Skypecast. So here's our correspondence.

Bear in mind with the text below that I was doing the hosting for the Skype chat at the same time: inviting people to speak, bringing back people who dropped out due to weak connections, and monitoring a second text chat simultaneously. Plus I could only type while my microphone was muted.

[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:49:52] Barry Kort: In doing investigative reporting, Brian, a journalist has to be competent at finding and examining the evidence, determining how reliable it is, and reasoning accurately to whatever conclusions and insights are revealed by the evidence. How would you rate Wikipedians at doing that, either in writing articles or in investigating conduct cases?
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:51:03] Durova: I've read that to Brian.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:51:09] … Good at the latter
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:51:09] Barry Kort: Thank you.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:51:16] Durova: all over the map on the former.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:51:26] … Some things have weak evidence and it's duly noticed.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:51:53] … Wikipedia is getting better at - as a reader - getting tipped as a reader that evidence might not be there to support every point an author has made.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:51:59] … Maybe the latter part varies too.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:53:24] Barry Kort: Thank you for mediating that, and his response. I appreciate it.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:54:57] Durova: gah
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:55:04] … I think our recorder was off during it!
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:55:08] … sorry...
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:55:26] … so much to keep on top of.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:55:30] … He had a good answer.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:55:40] … talking about how he learns about Wikipedia stuff.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:56:56] Barry Kort: Oh, bummer.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:57:17] Durova: Try another?
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:57:20] … We're recording now.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:59:18] … We're taking a question from Brian about why we participate in Wikipedia,.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:59:26] Barry Kort: OK. Similarly, in journalism, there arise conflicting views about what constitutes a professional level of storycraft before breaking a story. Can you compare how AP editors hash out what's publishable vs how WP editors resolve their editorial conflicts?
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:59:27] Durova: What brought us in, why we stay.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 15:59:30] … ok
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:00:10] … good question!
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:01:54] … He says it's similar but simpler.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:01:58] … fewer people weigh in.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:02:57] Barry Kort: I can ask one more, if there's time.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:03:32] Durova: sure
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:04:28] Barry Kort: Professional journalists have a code of ethics that they follow. How would you compare the ethical guidelines to which professional journalists adhere to the level of ethics manifested within the WP community?
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:06:43] Durova: hard to say
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:06:53] … every day things get written on Wikipedia that would get him fired
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:07:01] … but other editors take evidence extremely seriously.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:07:06] … very broad category.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:08:14] Barry Kort: Should editors who write WP BLPs be obliged to pledge to a normative standard of journalistic ethics?
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:09:14] … ... Such as the one Doc Glasgow proposed, for example. (If he is aware of that.)
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:09:50] Durova: very interesting question
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:10:07] … Brian says it's not just some arbitrary nebulous code
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:10:17] … whether a lawsuit could happen
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:10:33] … if he writes about a living person, it could be a career killer to do it wrong.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:11:15] … Wikipedia hasn't been sued yet, so the boundaries aren't fully defined.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:11:30] … Filll is adding that he goes by what's been published previously in mainstream media sources.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:11:40] … He's cautious about being too innovative, especially on biographies.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:11:46] … He's rather rely on their filters first.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:12:01] Barry Kort: This might not be a suitable Q, but consider it... Does Brian think WP is likely to be sued over defamatory BLPs?
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:14:11] Durova: Brian has to go in a moment. We've run over.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:14:27] … We were talking about where the limits of journalistic standards are, and where they sometimes fail.
[Thu Apr 24 2008 16:14:46] Barry Kort: Many thanks for relaying those Qs. I appreciate it. And give my thanks to Brian for his thoughtful answers.

Thanks, Moulton, for being a good sport. At Not the Wikipedia Weekly we're learning as we're going.

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