How writing for Wikipedia helps journalists

Yiwen Lu is a student journalist based in Chicago and the Communications Director of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). She was a participant in Wiki Education’s recent AAJA Wiki Scholars course, which was made possible by the Wikimedia Foundation. In the course, AAJA’s members worked together to increase Wikipedia’s coverage of Asian American and Pacific Islander journalists’ biographies. 

“I use Wikipedia a lot personally and professionally, and it struck me that minority journalists are underrepresented in Wikipedia biographies. That inspired me to take this opportunity and learn more about how people edit Wikipedia articles that end up being a full encyclopedia,” Lu says.

Lu created an entry for Jiayang Fan, who is a staff writer for The New Yorker. She compiled many of Fan’s interviews and other sources to be able to write a comprehensive biography.

Taking the AAJA Wiki Scholars course provided Lu a fresh perspective on the contributing process on Wikipedia. As an avid user of Wikipedia previously, she transformed from a consumer to a writer confident in writing from scratch.

“Previously as a user/reader of Wikipedias, I would only pay attention to the actual Wikipedia page, but the course taught me about different sections in the writing process, various pages in addition to the main Wikipedia, as well as many fun resources,” Lu says. “It introduced me to the behind-the-scenes parts of Wikipedia. So after taking the course, I am comfortable with creating an article from scratch, adding citations, as well as improving existing articles through using talk pages, for example.” 

As journalists emphasize the importance of reporting accurate information from reliable sources, the AAJA Wiki Scholars course taught Lu that Wikipedians share similar values. A major feature of Wikipedia is including citations in every article, a tool journalists can use to pinpoint sources for their own work.

“Beyond learning about the topic itself through contributing, I think learning how citations are made in Wikipedia would be helpful for journalists when we are looking into an issue, as it helps us to trace back to the original sources,” Lu says. “I personally found the process of creating a Wikipedia entry helpful for me to read about multiple sources on the topic.”

Throughout the course, Lu enjoyed engaging in genuine conversations with other Wiki Scholars while picking up on how new Wikipedia articles come to life.

“Looking at the back end of things – the talk pages and the edit history have been really fun to look at. Those helped me visualize how one builds a Wikipedia from scratch,” Lu says. “Reading user pages of individual users has also been a really fun part; I would never imagine that Wikipedia can also serve this additional social function to bring the community together.” 

With Wikipedia being a website filled with publicly accessible information, Lu sees the vast amount of benefits that come along with teaching others about Wikipedia contributions and the importance of publishing information in an effort to give credit where it’s due. 

“As something that is openly accessible to everyone on the internet, Wikipedia is in a really unique and important position to educate people, so having diverse perspectives makes sure that we are telling the stories that need to be heard,” Lu says.

 Lu hopes her contribution on Wikipedia provides representation for other aspiring journalists, especially Asian Americans. Her experiences starting out on her journalism career reflects on why she took the initiative to enroll in the AAJA Wiki Scholars course.

“Personally, when I started to get interested in journalism during college, there were few AAPI journalists around me, and there was no role model for me to look at. As a result, I have been lost for the first couple of months of navigating this career,” Lu says. “The more I report and write, the more I realized that there were few coverages of the AAPI community because there are not many AAPI journalists. A lot of the time, journalists don’t look like the community they cover. Therefore, for the sake of both helping aspiring journalists who hope to get into the industry as well as helping the community find the right person to tell their stories, I found it important to participate in the AAJA Wiki Scholars course and contribute to the representation of minority journalists – and not even journalists, but people of color in all professions.”

To take a course like Yiwen’s, please visit Image courtesy Yiwen Lu, all rights reserved.


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