Why I use Wikipedia to follow major news events like the Samoa earthquake and tsunami

It’s worth taking a look at the Wikipedia entry regarding yesterday’s earthquake and resulting tsunami in the south Pacific.
As some people know, I am in awe of Wikipedia and its underlying technology, culture, community and practices. (That’s another post for another day.)

This post, however, is just a suggestion: Watch that entry throughout the day for a display of a new form of journalism in which the invisible hands of editors are turning a flood of incoming data into what will become, over time, the most visited page on the internet regarding this event.

If you forget what you think you know about Wikipedia and study this entry, you’ll see a resource in which every fact is cited by a link to its source (gee, what I’d give for such citation in a typical AP story). You will see news writing that eschews narrative and anecdote for timeline and statistics.

And talk about link-jounalism. A story like this, one that involves facts about geology and geography and science and politics, presents the need to link to resources found on all corners of the internet. Because Wikipedia is built on such links, nearly every sentence on the entry has multiple links to other entries on Wikipedia. And in the “Reference section (where citation links appear)” and the “External links” section, you’ll already find dozens of links to news stories, aid organizations and local resources.

Because the Wikipedia (and Mediawiki) community of extension and template developers have been practicing their craft for so long, there are pre-existing tables and charts (and processes and practices for their usage) that as soon as the event occurred, a page appeared that is recognizable to those who have ever seen a page that chronicles a similar event.

Less than 24-hours later, the entry has been translated into nine different languages (and counting).

The entry is written for someone who is desperate to get information in real-time — it has an exhaustive list of out-bound links to news-sources that will likely be edited out later — as well as future historians, writers, researchers, students and others who will be seeking information about the event in years to come.

There is so much to learn from this entry on Wikipedia.

Most major news-oriented websites have spent years trying to replicate online what story-telling is in print or broadcast. Even blogs do that.

During that same time, Wikipedia has shown us a different way — perhaps one that points to a better way for the web.

I promise: There’s so much more to Wikipedia than you can ever imagine.