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Legitimizing Wikipedia: how US national newspapers frame and use the online encyclopedia in their coverage

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Legitimizing Wikipedia: how US national newspapers frame and use the online encyclopedia in their coverage
Authors: Marcus Messner, Jeff South [edit item]
Citation: Journalism Practice  : . 2010.
Publication type: Journal article
Peer-reviewed: yes
Database(s):
DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2010.506060.
Google Scholar cites: Citations
Link(s): Paper link
Added by Wikilit team: Added on initial load
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Legitimizing Wikipedia: how US national newspapers frame and use the online encyclopedia in their coverage is a publication by Marcus Messner, Jeff South.


[edit] Abstract

Within only a few years, the collaborative online encyclopedia Wikipedia has become one of the most popular websites in the world. At the same time, Wikipedia has become the subject of much controversy because of inaccuracies and hoaxes found in some of its entries. Journalists, therefore, have remained skeptical about the reliability and accuracy of Wikipedia's information, despite the fact that research has consistently shown an overall high level of accuracy compared to traditional encyclopedia. This study analyzed the framing of Wikipedia and its use as a news source by five US national newspapers over an eight-year period. A content analysis of 1486 Wikipedia references in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Christian Science Monitor found that Wikipedia is framed predominantly neutral and positive, and that it is increasingly used as a news source. By framing Wikipedia as credible and accurate, the newspapers help legitimize the use of the online encyclopedia. By allowing Wikipedia to influence their news agendas as a source, the newspapers confirm the growing reliability of Wikipedia.

[edit] Research questions

"The goal of this study, therefore, was to examine the framing of Wikipedia and the use of it as a news source. A content analysis of five national US newspapers—The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Christian Science Monitor—was conducted to explore how the online encyclopedia is covered, and how it is cited. RQ1:How do newspapers frame Wikipedia?RQ2:Do newspapers use Wikipedia as a source?RQ3:In which contexts do newspapers use Wikipedia as a source?"

Research details

Topics: News source, Reader perceptions of credibility [edit item]
Domains: Communications, Journalism [edit item]
Theory type: Analysis [edit item]
Wikipedia coverage: Main topic [edit item]
Theories: "McCombs (2005) defined five stages of agenda-setting theory: (1) issue agenda-setting, (2) attribute agenda-setting, (3) psychology of agenda-setting effects, (4) sources of the media agenda, and (5) consequences of agenda-setting. This study explores two of these areas: how attributes in media coverage frame the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and how the media use it as a source.

According to Gamson (1989), framing theory helps to analyze how certain attributes of information are emphasized over others. It is important to understand how the media frame an issue when there are a variety of options to present the information. The selection of specific facts and their interpretation have the potential to shape public opinion and influence the public's agenda (Mahon and Wartick, 2003). When journalists choose a frame for an issue, they make a consequential decision that will influence the story, but also its reader's perception of the issue (McCombs and Shaw, 1993). Wanta et al. (2004) stressed that the public learns the importance of an issue based on the amount of coverage it receives." [edit item]

Research design: Content analysis [edit item]
Data source: Documents [edit item]
Collected data time dimension: Longitudinal [edit item]
Unit of analysis: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia data extraction: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia page type: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia language: English [edit item]

[edit] Conclusion

"While the five newspapers use hundreds of sources on a daily basis and have used Wikipedia only 161 times as a source in eight years, the trend of the last two years shows a greater acceptance for the online encyclopedia. Despite wildly publicized inaccuracies and hoaxes, Wikipedia has developed into a source on which renowned news publications rely in their information-gathering process. The results of this study underline that the use of Wikipedia is much more than the “sneak into print” that Shaw (2008) suggested. The wide use of Wikipedia as a simple mention in many articles also underlines this. While the reporting on the Wikipedia phenomenon is likely to subside over time, references to Wikipedia can be expected to increase. The results of this study only reflect the use of Wikipedia as a news source in the first years of the online encyclopedia's existence, and naturally this use has increased from a low starting level. Future research should continue to track this trend to analyze whether Wikipedia becomes a routine source of information for news-gathering purposes.

The most significant finding of this study is that newspapers increasingly frame Wikipedia in a positive light, and some of them also frame the encyclopedia as an accurate source of information. The more Wikipedia is cited by the news media, the greater the agenda-setting influence of the online encyclopedia will become. The growing credibility of Wikipedia with media and public alike also has the potential of leading to a growing acceptance of it. If the public views Wikipedia as credible, journalists are more likely to rely on it. And if journalists rely on Wikipedia, the public is more likely to view it as credible."

[edit] Comments

""Newspapers increasingly frame Wikipedia in a positive light, and some of them also frame the encyclopedia as an accurate source of information." N/A: The unit of analysis for the study was the Wikipedia reference in the Article"


Further notes[edit]