WikiIndaba conference 2017/Program/Talking to the press

Here you will find the notes for a presentation given on the WikiIndaba conference 2017 on 22nd of January 2017 at 10 am by Gereon Kalkuhl.

Talking to the press. What the press wants from Wikipedia and how to present Wikipedia in interviewsEdit

The press is interested in Wikipedia and how it works. Now if you're in a situation where you have to explain Wikipedia to journalists you face the following problems:

  • No matter how versed the journalist is in Wiki-Stuff, the internal structures of Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects have grown too complex to understand. Even regular contributors learn new aspects of how different parts of the Wikipedia work every day. For the outside world Wikipedia looks simple, but actually it's complicated. For you Wikipedia is complex, but since you're experienced it all seems understandable and simple to you. It's impossible for you to see Wikipedia the same way someone who has never edited sees it, and for someone who has hardly edited: lots of them did not even notice that each page has an acompanying talk page.
  • Come prepared. Ask the interviewer beforehand, at best 1 day before, what he is interested in.
  • Like this you have time enough to get actual and factual numbers, you don't have to guess and the numbers you give won't be obsolete

When talking in a radio studio: talk slowly. And have water at hand, your voice will thank you.

When filmed: rather look at your interviewer than into the camera. An interview is an interaction between 2 persons. When looking into the camera you interrupt that interaction.

When presenting Wikipedia to the press, i.e. to TV stations, the radio, newspapers and magazines a Wikipedian exposes himself. Then most of the time the Privacy policy which makes clear that you can contribute anonymously does not apply. It turned out that testimonials are a successful way to raise funds. And for this Wikipedia wants faces and names. But one has to be clear about what this can mean for your life.

The first big fundraiser campaign with testimonials was run in 2011. It featured Brandon Harris, Senior Designer of the Wikimedia Foundation, who was shown in a banner ad on the front page of en.wikipedia. Many million people all over the world saw Brandon. I asked him in 2012 if he got any feedback. He told me about death threats, insults and other threatening stuff that he received. It might have had to do with his long hair. He told me that it was a problem for him because he worked for the Wikimedia Foundation and had to read all this whereas a person exposed in this way who is not in an offical capacity could simply ignore all personal reactions, just delete them without having to read them.

In 2012 I was featured in a video testimonial that ran on the front page of en.wikipedia. I only received positive reactions, from taxi drivers who had seen me there, to Youtubers, Wikipedians and a conference that used my video. However, I talked to some of the others who were featured in the same campaign and it turned out that for women taking part it was problematic. Some received photos of penises, threats of rape or marriage proposals, while others only had positive reactions or hardly any reaction at all. So in conclusion when you present yourself to millions of anonymous viewers in the internet there is a risk that you attract psychopaths but then again a chance to help the Wikimedia world.