Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales: The Future Of News

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales reveals the future of news, media and journalism at Sydney’s World Business Forum, discusses plans for soon to be launched Wikitribune and shares where he looks for headlines, including BBC and The Guardian. Speaking with The Capital Network’s Lelde Smits. 

Lelde Smits: Hello I’m Lelde Smits for The Capital Network and joining me at The World Business Forum in Sydney is Jimmy Wales, the founder of online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia. Jimmy, welcome to Sydney. 

Jimmy Wales: Thank you for having me. 

Lelde Smits: You’ve just given a presentation on disruption. You’ve also recently announced plans to launch a news site. If we combine the both, what do you believe is the future of news?

Jimmy Wales: With Wikitribune we are trying to bring together paid professional journalists and community, working together in a new way. Because, I think the future of news is going to be a return to very high quality news. I think people are tired of clickbait headlines and the things that have been really polluting our newsfeeds for the last few years. So, I’m very hopeful that we will see something new. 

Lelde Smits:  Do you believe the old model of news therefore is dead?

Jimmy Wales: I think that some of the old model is what we need to bring back. A combination of revenue from leaders, some revenue from advertisers, we’re [Wikitribune] not having advertising. But, I think we need good strong journalism and we need people to pay for it. 

Lelde Smits: When you hear terms such as ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ are you concerned by these terms or do you view it more as an opportunity?

Jimmy Wales: It is an opportunity but it is not a happy opportunity. It is an opportunity in the same way that a tornado might be an opportunity for a builder. No, I am very concerned about it, concerned about people pushing the idea that we don’t know what is true or we can’t know what is true - because I think that is a path to tyranny and I think it is something that we need to resist. 

Lelde Smits:  When can we expect Wikitribune to launch and what makes you optimistic about it’s survival let alone success in this rapidly changing land of the internet?

Jimmy Wales: We’ll be doing the soft launch in the next few weeks with people who have signed up as monthly supporters, we are going to invite them in to test it and to work with us. 

We’ll be launching fully later in the fall. One of the things that leaves me hope that we will be successful is that we’ve had such an enormous outpouring of support in our crowd funding campaign. And, we see other outlets like the New York Times digital subscriptions has gone from 1 million to 1.8 million. That is exciting news. So, I think the public is ready for it. 

Lelde Smits: Final question, this is a question that I always like to ask people who love the news as much as I do. What news are you currently reading and where do you go for your headlines?

Jimmy Wales: I read The Guardian newspaper in the UK and the BBC. I live in London. And, I’m a big fan of the media landscape there.  

Lelde Smits: Thank you so much for your insights and enjoy the rest of your time in Sydney. 

Jimmy Wales: Thank you. 




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