Harriet Holbrook 09 May 2017

“The news is broken and we can fix it.”

Recently, Jimmy Wales, founder of online encyclopedia Wikipedia, announced the launch of Wikitribune with the aim of generating “news by the people for the people”. The new site, which is being created to help fight the rise of fake news by pairing community contributors with professional journalists, has so far attracted as much scepticism as enthusiasm.

Fake news is a multi-faceted thing, and not altogether new; but it is undoubtedly the case that the deliberate, viral spreading of misinformation, either for commercial or political ends, has radically spiked around some of the big news events of the past year. And it is no coincidence that the launch of Wikitribune coincides with Trump’s 100 days in power.

As a result, there is mounting evidence that people are willing to pay for high-quality news. In a recent interview discussing the launch, Wales cited New York Times subscriptions and Guardian membership, with more than 50,000 people paying to sign up to the latter.

Ultimately, he wants to get users to pay for news, and then play a hugely active role in determining its focus. Wikitribune will be 100% ad-free so that there’s no need to appease advertisers. No one has a vested interest in anything and articles will be authored, fact-checked, and verified by professional journalists and community members.

It is in the interest of our industry that this works and is trusted if it’s being positioned a platform for businesses to showcase their views. Ultimately, PR only has value if the platforms that are being used to publish content are trusted by those who consume it, and if Wikitribune succeeds, it can only be positive for everyone involved.

Only time will tell whether this kind of sustainable community journalism will work, and more importantly, whether users will pay for it.