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Wiki journalism

Using blogs and the web as a source for “grassroots” journalism seems to be a rising meme. But, surprise, suprise, one of the first great experiments seems to have gone quickly aground.

The LA Times decided to try “wikatorials,” online editorials that any reader could edit. The project, which started last Friday, ended early Sunday morning “because a few readers were flooding the site with inappropriate material.” The Times reports it shut down the site after pornographic photos were posted.

So much for grassroots journalism, at least SoCal style.


The Supreme Court says pornography is anything without artistic merit that causes sexual thoughts; that’s their definition, essentially. No artistic merit, causes sexual thoughts. Hmm. . . . Sounds like . . . every commercial on television, doesn’t it?”

Comedian Bill Hicks

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2 comments to Wiki journalism

  • One of the significant developments in the college teaching of writing came with computers and the development of programs for the quick and simultaneous exchange of information. Questions could be posted and instead of having to choose who would answer them in class, every member participated by answering–sometimes forced to answer by withholding credit for the session. They were accustomed to chat rooms and professors had to exercise a stern editorial hand to prevent flaming and the disintegration of a valuable tool into a valueless exercise. The concept of the chat room was extended to discussion boards and web logs. Some very prominent newspapers are looking for ways to get out of sponsoring discussion boards because they are dominated by the most demented devils of human nature rather than by the highest angels.

    In studying popular culture, we find that only in a few electronic settings–mostly those with resources to exercise editorial standards–is content the salient aspect. In most, the meanness, stupidity, and perverse destructiveness of trolls and other verbal vandals are what dominate. The editorial experience of the Times is a reminder that there are forces out there that detest democracy and use the destructive powers at hand to impose their wills on others. Democracy is fragile and always under insidiouis attack by those who want its benefits for themselves but cannot grant them to others. And so it goes.

  • Wikipedia is a pretty good counter-example. Sure they have vandals there, but they certainly don’t dominate.