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Enviro-Mich message from jalexander@muskegonchronicle.com
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On the Web: www.greatlakeswiki.org

Online 'wiki' seeks info from anyone on our lakes
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
By Jeff Alexander
CHRONICLE STAFF WRITER
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.


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