Given that I learned of the Virginia Tech shootings via the Cool Cat Teacher blog, I shouldn’t be so surprised that I went on to get my news from Wikipedia. Isn’t it just fascinating that the modern equivalent of World Book or Britannica is acting a lot more like ABC or NBC?
Not until I clicked on the Wikipedia article’s citations did I wind up at a major news outlet. I think Wikipedia-as-news-source is an important trend (and was the shining star in citizen journalism, according to one blog) for 3 reasons:
- Wikipedia contributors aggregate breaking news — fast. The Wikipedia page on the Virginia Tech shootings was created at 11:15am on April 16.
- Because everything must be cited, contributors sort out unsupported claims.
- When one news outlet goes out on a limb with a claim, the information is soon removed from Wikipedia because there are so many eyes on the news.
I gave my students an opportunity today to see and comment on the Wikipedia-as-news-provider trend. After reviewing the article, the students talked about being impressed by the details. We also discussed the idea of smart mobs, which was new to most of them.
Ours was a somber class period, filled with questions (and, thanks to Wikipedia, answers).