Proposal:Set better example for Mass Media
The status of this proposal is:
Request for Discussion / Sign-Ups
Every proposal should be tied to one of the strategic priorities below.
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- Achieve continued growth in readership
- Focus on quality content
- Increase Participation
- Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
- Encourage Innovation
The Mass Media is not nearly as impartial as they portray themselves and by placing more priority on the basics and obtaining input from the public I have no doubt that Wikimedia and Wikipedia can set a much better example for the Mass Media. The success of this proposal will depend on the sincerity and determination of the participants. Under the current circumstances merely trying will be a good step in the right direction.
Wikimedia can help define the basics of any subject and provide links to Wikipedia to remind the readers of the history of the subject and related subjects. The Mass Media often takes the basics for granted and presents some ideological ideas as fact even though they may contradict the basics of that subject. I could cite almost any subject and provide a good and simple example of how they do this, the easiest and clearest one may be gambling. Whether it is through advertisements or news stories the Mass Media spends a lot of time talking about gambling but they almost never mention the fact that in order for a gambling institution to survive they have to cover there expenses first profits second then whatever’s left can go to the winner. There is an enormous amount of hype around this subject to convince the public that they can win and it is worthwhile. The fact that these gambling institutions are so successful is proof that this hype works. It could be argued that this would be biased or advocacy which is not what Wikipedia/Wikimedia is about, however to decline to do this would also be biased perhaps much more so. I believe that to do this wouldn't be unreasonably biased but could go a long way to correct an unreasonable bias that is much worse.
Another example is the healthcare debate that is currently taking place in the USA. There is an enormous amount of discussion about several different plans which I can't keep up with or understand completely. One thing I can see is that there is little or no discussion about preventive medicine. The most effective way to cut cost by far is preventive medicine. This could include anti-smoking programs and exercise programs that cost little or no money. The second most important thing would be child healthcare. Wikimedia could also spend more time describing other health care systems and provide links to well organized descriptions of them. The most important things on this subject like many others are being ignored by the Mass Media.
Another example is violence prevention. I recently tried to improve a section on wikipedia on this with sourced information about research into the subject on how to prevent school violence. The methods would also help prevent violence later in life. There is plenty of credible reliable research to indicate that if more is done to reduce child abuse and bullying then crime and violence later in life can be dramatically reduced. For more information on this see the following if you’re interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Zacherystaylor/preventing_school_violence
Another example where reminding the public of history would have a major benefit is the conflicts in the Mideast (other conflicts could be substituted). The USA media has spent a lot of time discussing how radical and potentially dangerous Iran could be if it gets nuclear weapons. I certainly don't object to this but they spend much less time reminding the public about past wrong doing by the US government. The public could have been reminded more often of the fact that the US propped up the Shah in the 50's. The Shah was a vicious tyrant and led the people of Iran to turn to the best opposition that they knew of at that time which was a radical theocracy. The USA also wound up supplying both sides in the Iran Iraq war. By keeping the public better informed it would help to find more rational solutions to these problems and avoid unnecessary conflict. Objections about this enraging Islam are unfounded since what is enraging them is the fact that it is being ignored by the USA. Islam is already well aware of this.
This would essentially involve doing a better job describing the basics of any given subject and providing links to additional related subjects and the history of that subject for those that are not familiar with it.
The purpose of the media is or should be to inform and educate the public. The media is also vital to the success of a true democracy. If the public doesn't have accurate information to base their decisions they can't make choices that are truly democratic. If one institution like the government in power or a small group of media owners can control the information available to the public it can never be a true democracy, at best or worst it would be the illusion of a democracy. The reason this could be worse is that if the public doesn't realize how biased the media is then they won’t even realize that action is necessary to correct the problem.
A better informed public could lead to dramatic improvements in all aspects of life for everyone; it could also help avoid many disasters.
Potential obstacles or objections
Some people may say this is biased or advocacy. I'm new to wikimedia but this objection has been used on wikipedia. To determine whether this is unreasonable bias would require reasonable discretion. I have no doubt that to do nothing under the current circumstances would be far worse. Some people seem to believe that whatever the status quota is at the time is unbiased. This is unreasonable, by this thinking it would mean that enslaving minorities in the 1850's was unbiased. If the status quo is unbiased than there would be no need for anyone to participate in Wikimedia or Wikipedia at all they could just let governments and corporations decide everything.
A similar argument could be made that Wikipedia or Wikimedia is not an experiment in democracy. This claim is also false since merely by inviting the public to participate there is some degree of democratic input.
The biggest obstacle could be accuracy. The objective should be accuracy and efforts should be made to check facts and seek ways to crosscheck them. This is one thing that should never be democratic nor should it be dictated by a leader. Facts should be based on credible research procedures and efforts to figure out what is true. Facts should not be based on what people want to be true.
Another obstacle could be bias or ignorance. In the Preventing school violence article I mention above it may demonstrate an example of this. In this case many members of the public may not realize how much they have been affected by the Mass Media. I tried to introduce information from credible sources that were backed up by good research and the first time around it was rejected. I expect to try again but my point is that since the public is editing wikimedia and they have become accustomed to obtaining their information from the Mass Media they may tend to imitate the Mass Media and create a mirror image. In order for the editors of wikimedia or wikipedia to set a better example than the Mass Media they must realize themselves that the Mass Media is biased. This may take time for the public to recognize the biases in the Mass Media but eventually after several tries this could lead to a much better media both at wikimedia and if the Mass Media takes the cue in the Mass Media. In the mean time there may be a lot of debate over how to improve things. During this debate it would be helpful to keep it civil.
Much of this can be done with volunteers at no additional costs on top of what wikipedia is already spending. If money is available I'm sure additional research could be done, however it will be tough to decide where the priorities are in that case.
Hard rules not necessary
This proposal is almost certainly already in place to some degree if the editors are doing a good job. This will also be in place to some degree if the proposal is rejected and the editors implement it anyway. In Wikipedia the rules tend to be enforced in a selective way. This means the quality of Wikipedia or Wikimedia depends on the discretion of the editors. I have noticed that some pages tend to be far better than others. If some editors have political objectives or biases they interfere the quality is lower.
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