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E-M:/ Great Lakes wiki article

FYI for would be wikins...

Online 'wiki' seeks info from anyone on our lakes

Wednesday, January 31, 2007
By Jeff Alexander

Michigan State University today unveiled a Wikipedia-style Great Lakes online encyclopedia that allows anyone to enter and edit information about regional environmental issues.

Officials at MSU's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism called the new Web site, www.greatlakeswiki.org, a "revolutionary attempt to encourage grassroots journalism" by allowing anyone to "report on the Great Lakes story."

"The Web site lets those who know the lakes best report on their ecology, pollution, commerce, culture, policy, recreation, music and more," according to a press release.

"The Great Lakes represent a complex story often incompletely told or ignored by mainstream media," said Dave Poulson, associate director of MSU's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. "The story requires many authors with diverse views, intimate knowledge and a passionate stake in nearly 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water."

Wikipedia is a well-known online encyclopedia that allows contributors to post information and commentary without prior editing with regard to fairness or accuracy. In traditional news sites, trained journalists collect information, check facts and write articles that strive for objectivity and accuracy.

The only safeguards against factual errors or biased information are users of the site, said Cliff Lampe, co-leader of the Great Lakes Wiki project and an assistant professor in MSU's Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media department.

Lampe said the Web site's self-regulation process is not perfect, but has worked well with other wiki sites. And, he added, mainstream media outlets are not immune to mistakes or occasionally allowing bias to creep into news stories.

"From what I know from working with other wiki-like projects, poor spelling, grammar and writing are more common problems than malicious behavior," Lampe said.

Lampe said he hopes Great Lakes Wiki can be a site where environmental and industry groups can discuss multiple angles of issues and stories.

MSU students designed the Web site and gathered interviews, information, videos and images to provide a template. It is one of 10 citizen journalism projects nationwide to receive startup funding last year from J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism.

"Mainstream reporters struggle to compete with the 'wisdom of crowds' because they can't possibly have the collective knowledge, energy and motivation of their diverse and numerous readers," Lampe said. "That's why wikis work."

Anyone can post headlines linked to stories they've written or to other user-created content -- images, videos, audio clips, charts or other stories, Lampe said.

MSU officials said the project is ideal for citizens hoping to draw attention to particular lakes, streams and other natural resources in the region.

The university plans to hold workshops to help groups use the technology for creative storytelling. Anyone interested in attending, hosting or organizing such workshops may contact Lampe at lampecli@msu.edu.

©2007 Muskegon Chronicle
© 2007 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.