It's been said that journalists can be defined as historians in a hurry--and, as Wikipedia is proving, at no time has that been truer than now.
For the last several months, the digital encyclopedia had been experimenting with Wikinews, a source of real-time news that is written, edited and categorized by legions of volunteers. Then in July, the London bombings propelled it to the top of online traffic barometers alongside established news media.
Now, Hurricane Katrina has provided another reason for people to rush to Wikinews and other volunteer-run collaborative news sites: community. In times of emergency, wikis are quickly being recognized as important gathering spots not only for news accounts but also for the exchange of resources, safety bulletins, missing-person reports and other vital information, as well as a meeting place for virtual support groups.
Years from now, if not months, we may look back at this as a defining moment for the rise of citizen journalism. It is just unfortunate that catastrophic events would be the reason behind its mainstream acceptance.
Blog community response:
"There's always good old wiki's connections and news. Wiki makes an effort to make sure the calls for help are legitimate. They're a clearinghouse of info for people in the area and outside it. Know anyone who needs oxygen in the flood-struck area? Go to wiki."
"The mood of each entry slowly changes, going from an initial cockiness to an extremely bleak point of view ('Dead bodies everywhere: convention center, down camp street, all over?? Crime is absolutely rampant: rapes, murders, rape-murder combinations.') With pictures and video feeds to back up his words, this seems to be an evolution on the 'Citizen Journalism' we saw after the London bombings. What he has been saying is certainly something that news outlets can't or won't publish."
--The Community At Large
"If more people saw the huge potential of the citizen journalism that Wikinews provides...Well, it could by far surpass blogging. It's like the best democratization process of 'news' as we know it. Yet, people haven't seen it yet. But it will get there, just as famous as Wikipedia is today. It's inevitable!"
--Try Another Day