Ways to Help the Newspapers On Wikipedia Project Without Setting Up a Wikipedia Account #1: Add a Resource

A lot of people support the Newspapers on Wikipedia Project, but only a tiny fraction of supporters participate. Why?

I know so many people in open pedagogy that have never edited Wikipedia. I know you live with secret shame. So why not address that? Why not make this your first Wikipedia project? We’ll make it super easy. It will literally take 5 minutes.

Today’s Task: Add a State-Level Resource

Pick a state from our state-level pages and comb through free Google Books to see if you can find histories that have any substantial coverage of the newspaper industry in that state. Add it to one of the state pages under resources.

Here’s how you do it.

Be a bit selective in what you choose — one reference to one paper doesn’t make it generally useful. But often county histories will talk quite a bit about the history of newspapers, and sometimes state university libraries have detailed bibliographic records or digital archives, all of which can be useful.

Here’s the list of state pages — just give us five minutes!


Create an Account (but only if you want to)

Should you create an account?

If the stress of creating an account is stopping you from contributing, then no. Just edit anonymously (though be aware your IP will be logged publicly).

However, creating an account is easy, and the only real stressor is coming up with a username.

I recommend students do not use their real name to start — you can always change your name to a real name later. There are some things you might want to do on Wikipedia — like jumping into heated political debates — where a pseudonym is better. You probably don’t want to do those things, but you might want to keep the option open at first.

Adults and teachers, on the other hand, may want to use their real name, so that their work is more easily attributable to them.

Here’s the link to create an account: Create an Account

If You Want a Pseudonym

People using direct variations on their own name have it easy. But choosing a pseudonym can be stressful.

So let me suggest you don’t need to be clever. Your username can literally be a string of letters with no meaning to anyone other than you.

Here’s one way of generating such a username:  think of a song you have a memory about — any memory. Something your parents played, a song you remember from a first date, a song that just struck you on a cross-country drive, a song that played constantly on the radio on your way to your first job.

Take the initials of the person/band who performed it, followed by the initials of the song, and the year of the memory. So:

  • David Bowie, Modern Love, heard in 1983 = dbml83
  • John Lennon, Watching the Wheels, 1981 = jlwtw81
  • Billy Bragg, A New England, heard in 1988 = bbane88
  • Neil Young, Broken Arrow, heard in 1990 = nyba90
  • Klugmaknotts. Water Color Sound, 1995 = kwcs95
  • Belle and Sebastian, Sleep the Clock Around, 1999 = basstca99

If you don’t like that or it’s not unique, play with it a bit. Or keep picking different music memories til you find one you like. Or if you’re not big on music memories, pick something else. The important thing is to make the name opaque to outsiders so you don’t stress about their interpretation.

You can always request renaming later, when you have a better idea. It’s just a login, don’t sweat it. Don’t start thinking it has to represent you — your work is what will represent you in the end.

Join the NOW Slack

If you do just one thing today, join the Newspapers on Wikipedia Slack. You can get all the information you want there. We have an “odd jobs” channel you can listen into that will feed you all sorts of small to medium-sized tasks, like finding a copyright-free picture of a newspaper office, adding awards to a Wikipedia page, adding notes on specific pages, help verify a date.

Here’s the link: https://now-ish.slack.com

Newspapers on Wikipedia Project: A Quick and Current Project Summary and Some Heartfelt Thank Yous

The Newspapers on Wikipedia Project is moving forward. If you don’t know what the project is about, read the brief summary on the WikiProject page, and then maybe this short Poynter story which I think explains the project more concisely than I typically have.

If you’re not into clicking links, the best summary I can provide is this:

The Data Void Problem

Wikipedia and the array of information services that rely on it have a problem.

  • Wikipedia ends up providing important credibility signals in evaluating news sources, and in particular in telling if something is from a traditional news source or an imposter.
  • These signals are part of multiple algorithmic and media literacy solutions.
  • Wikipedia provides fairly good coverage of national news sources.
  • Wikipedia provides very poor coverage of local news sources, where less than half (and possibly *much* less than half) of local newspapers have a Wikipedia page.
  • This particular “data void” has been exploited before (remember the “Denver Guardian”?) and we expect it to be increasingly exploited until we fill it in.
  • There are signs that exploiting this gap is on the menu in the near future. See, most recently, Russians Created Twitter Accounts for Fake Local News Sources.

(for an explanation of a data void issue in medicine, read this Wired article)

The Student-Driven Solution

  • We’re having students and faculty fill the gap by writing small articles on local newspapers. We’re going to try to get 1,000 written.
  • In the process, the students will learn deep information literacy skills and understandings around search, sourcing, point of view, and Wikipedia processes.
  • They also learn about the importance of local news — the ways in which it has served communities in the past, for both better and for worse.

And we think that’s an amazing trifecta: improving the information environment, developing online research literacies, and understanding the importance of local news ecosystems.

Partners, Funders, and Advisers

We are benefiting from the help of lots of people.

Eni Mustafaraj and Emma Laurie at Wellesley wrote the research article on the impact of the local news data void on students’ ability to evaluate sources, and inspired the project. And they are putting together code and people at Wellesley to help track the progress of this project in closing that void, and organizing some fall editathons to get it done.

Paul Haahr and Susan Karp literally jumped in to personally support this project on day one. Besides funding some project tracking through Wellesley, they have made a matching donation “challenge” that we will be using to further motivate students. For each newspaper article created to some minimal specifications, they will donate $25 to Room to Read, a charity that teaches young girls in developing countries to read, up to $25,000.

I’m also just indebted to them for their immediate interest and faith in this project. Paul is actually Google’s top-ranked search engineer: the fact that he grokked this idea immediately helped inspire me to add yet another project onto my rather full dance card. (I don’t regret it).

Pete Forsyth is a well-known Wikipedian who makes a living showing clients how to navigate Wikipedia ethically, explaining sometimes byzantine rules and conflicting concerns to newbies. He’s advising this project for free, helping not just me, but the  students who have already started working on this.

Amy Collier, the “first follower” that any project leader would die to have in their camp, contacted me about twenty minutes after I proposed this and said she wanted in. Her team of students at Middlebury is already kicking ass and helping us to work out the kinks in our processes before our fall semester rollout.

Wiki Education, which has agreed as of this week to coordinate with us to support students  and faculty on this project. From here forward, if you want to get started on this you can email contact@wikiedu.org, let them know that you want to work on the Newspapers on Wikipedia project. They will get you set up to teach Wikipedia in your classroom, integrating some of the materials and tasks that we’re pursuing, and pass you back to us for help where appropriate. They’ve been supporting people using Wikipedia in the classroom for years, so we are extremely grateful for their participation and investment in our success.

If I missed you here, I’m sorry — but I wanted to say thanks to these folks sooner rather than later. This project is starting to pick up a head of steam, and I’m thankful for all the support.


Starting a Wikipedia Article on a Local Newspaper

This is sped up, but an introduction to how to start a local newspaper page on Wikipedia. It’s not meant to introduce people to Wikipedia as much as the process of slowly building out an article based on quality sources.

We really need faculty and students who are willing to sign up for our project described here. Just commit to having your class do five to ten articles and they’ll make the world a better place while learning digital literacy and research skills. We’re even working with Wiki Education to get you the classroom support you need.  Email contact@wikiedu.org saying you want to your class to participate in the Newspapers on Wikipedia project to get started for the fall. Perfect for everything from history classes to first-year seminars to journalism courses.

Sign up now and give your students a chance to make the world a better place instead of doing more throwaway projects. You won’t regret it!