Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/Newsroom/Content guidance

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The Signpost
Content guidelines

The Signpost is a weekly community newspaper written and edited by users like you—every week of successful publications is the result of the effort of a large group of individuals, comprising writers, reviewers, tipsters, copyeditors, technologists and publishers alike. This page lays out what it is that the efforts of all these people is directed towards; sister pages on style and resources lay out how they do it.

Statement of purpose

The Signpost attempts to accomplish three things, broadly speaking:[1]

  • Inform: The primary purpose of the Signpost has always been to inform the community about events that affect and affected by the Wikimedia movement. Though the Signpost was originally created as topically an English Wikipedia-only publication it has long since expanded its scope to cover the Wikimedia movement at large, a transformation symbolically completed by the 2011 renaming of the Wikipedia Signpost as just the Signpost. Thus, the correct tone for most reports will match that of the average Wikimedian. The Signpost does not specifically maintain a commitment to neutrality in the same way that Wikipedia at large does, but the paper is nonetheless known for and aims to serve as a balanced and impartial news source—a recurring problem is the difficulty of representing consensus viewpoints in a critical lens. Editors are expected to exercise good judgment at all times, and generally speaking reports usually include at least some mention of all major positions adopted by Wikimedians on the issues at stake.
  • Entertain: A wish to entertain provides the impetus behind some of the publication's lighter-hearted features. The Signpost aims to be a quality online newspaper, after all, and is not an encyclopedia itself, and so allows many things—editorializing, narrative, original research—that would be blasphemy in the article space. Nonetheless, it is worth stressing that, unless there is good reason and this is highlighted to the reader as a preface to a piece, writers always strive "to maintain [a level of] objectivity as would be appropriate for an independent media organization elsewhere" (in the words of Signpost founder Michael Snow).

  • Publish: The Signpost is the best space available to present ideas, publish community research, or draw attention to a cause before both the English Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia movement more broadly. We are a community organized and executed publication reaching thousands of readers every week, attaining a readership—and an impact—for our publications that far exceeds any of the other, more disparate publication channels maintained amongst the projects. The Wikimedia Foundation Blog is supposedly the most impactful channel of communication available to the movement—yet in 2015 readership survey we found that a significant plurality of our readers did not know of the blog's existence, and that those that did usually found Signpost publications more appealing.[2] The Signpost platform is one that's available for you, our readers, to make use of. Have a project that you'd like to highlight? An issue that you'd like to bring to light? An essay you'd like to publish? Bring it to us and let us help you make it known. The Signpost solicits articles, op-eds, and special reports from the community, subject the approval of the editor(s)-in-chief, currently Pete Forsyth. See the next section, How to contribute, for more details; refer also to this editorial for more details.

How to contribute

There are, broadly speaking, three ways in which to contribute to the Signpost.

As a contributing writer

As the second point in our statement of purpose outlines, the Signposts actively solicits and encourages the publication of works written by members of the community not regularly attached to the Signpost per se. Broadly speaking such writings fall into two categories. Opinion essays are articles which present a problem or issue or challenge before the community, and then explicitly take a viewpoint or a position on the issue and, giving reasons for the author's view, put it under discussion before the community at large. Special reports are features which, much like op-eds, attempt to outline a specific issue before the community in the expository and in-depth way that a long-form article allows, but do so in a more explicitly neutral way. Though critical commentary and criticism is allowed in special reports it is kept to a minimum, as the primary purpose of a special report is to present an issue, not to opine on it.

Book reviews, and all other pieces not fitting the classifications introduced here, can also be proposed or submitted: novel ideas are always welcome.

If you are interested in contributing a feature to the Signpost: select whichever category is more appropriate for the article you have in mind, and follow the instructions after clicking through to the submissions desk.

As a regular writer

Interested in working a regular or occasional beat at one of the Signpost's regular features? This page provides an eponymous overview of the content of the various regular features under publication; once you have selected a section that you believe you are comfortable contributing to, make it known to everyone involved by introducing yourself into the regular responsibilities table at the Signpost newsroom. To ascertain responsibilities, catch up on the current status of a section, or otherwise to discuss or introduce yourself to other editors, introduce yourself on the project talk page—or, for a longer-form discussion, make use of (and direct others to) the dedicated #wikisignpost connect IRC channel. The Signpost is in constant need of new writers;[3] thank you for your interest!

This responsibility entails ensuring the report in question is consistently well-written and submitted before deadline, which in turn involves selecting the stories to be covered, managing the writing of the report (often contributing most of the content themselves, or recruiting other reporters to do so), and communicating with the newsroom to keep editors informed of developments. While all articles are subject to final review by the editor-in-chief (or managing editors), the regular reporter of a feature typically determines its direction and focus.

As a supporting editor

In addition to the core task of writing articles, the Signpost has a large number of supporting editors who help to get the weekly issue out and handle maintenance issues. This includes:

  • Copy-editors: After an article is finished in writing it must be stylistically and grammatically vetted by the Signpost copy-editing team and the editor(s)-in-chief. If you are an experienced writer interested in making sure that the material that the Signpost publishes every week is as high-quality as possible, this is the position for you. For guidelines on Signpost house style, see Style.
  • Editor(s)-in-chief: The editor(s)-in-chief has or have responsibility for executing the overall Signpost mission, as outlined both in our statement of purpose on this page and in their addresses to the readers. Ultimate responsibility for the project rests squarely on the shoulders of the editor(s)-in-chief, but though they coordinate the overall project (and are, usually, the lead editors of at least one of the Signpost's regular columns) they cannot handle all tasks alone, and depend on the assistance of the project's many other contributors. Editor(s)-in-chief are selected by the editor(s)-in-chief that proceed them and confirmed by the Signpost community; on the retirement of one head editor they are responsible for coordinating the search for the Signpost's next leader. For more details on the precise responsibilities of the editor(s)-in-chief see below.


User:Peteforsyth User:Jayen466 User:Go Phightins! User:Gamaliel User:The ed17 User:Skomorokh User:SMasters User:Jarry1250 User:HaeB User:Ragesoss User:Ral315 User:Michael Snow
  • Publication managers: Signpost publication is a complex and multi-step semi-automated procedure, and maintaining the ready state of the publication go button is the primary responsibility of the publication manager. The publication manager is also able to pull the trigger themselves whenever they feel that the Signpost is ready for its weekly publication. The script currently in use for publication was engineered by long-time contributor Jarry1250 who still has responsibility for its maintenance, though he is mostly inactive nowadays.
  • Editor emeritus: Editor(s)-in-chief who have stepped down from overall responsibility (usually due to time pressure) but maintain a presence at the project are given this title.
  • Social media coordinators: Editors delegated to assist the editor(s)-in-chief with managing the Signpost tip lines, handling the occasional Signpost reader surveys, and maintaining the Signpost social media accounts.
  • Designers: These editors are tasked with maintaining the Signpost's distinctive visual appearance and template code, and helping to make sure that editors that wish to write articles don't get bogged down with procedural matters. The Signpost has gone through several redesigns in its history—the current format arose from a massive overhaul in 2009 by Pretzels, with some updates in 2015 (primarily focused on documentation and ease-of-submission) by Resident Mario.


Publication timeline

The publication timeline is available for review in the Newsroom.

Errata

Contributors make every reasonable efforts to make sure they "get their facts right" (the editor-in-chief bears a similar level responsibility for putting out an error-free edition) but as with any other time-budgeted publication they are not expected to be infallible. Contributors should endeavor to avoid putting out material they know to be wrong or misleading. Despite this relatively high quality bar, The Signpost would not be where it is today without the efforts of hundreds of editors who have made their own, smaller contributions, and these are always welcomed.

Major contributors should generally watchlist articles to which they have contributed in order to note changes and comments made, and respond where possible. Where an error is discovered, minor corrections are usually made to the article directly; major corrections may require an accompanying editor's note at the bottom of the page. Post-publishing updates are almost never done unless they would be extremely confusing to a reader, and even then we prefer to leave the content intact. For example, if a linked article is deleted shortly after publication, leave the sentence intact but add an editor's note after the sentence. Post-publication spelling corrections are also allowed, though post-publication copy-editing, which undermines an article's impression of quality, is not.

Regular features

These are the features that are currently in regular rotation in the Signpost.

News and notes

The "News and notes" section (shorthand N&N or NAN) focuses on news from the English Wikipedia, the activities of Foundation itself and its chapters, and more broadly the Wikimedia movement at large. "News and notes" is published on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and aims to present broad coverage of going-ons within the Wikimedia movement, usually drawn together from mailing lists, blog posts, and other primary news dissemination avenues. The now customary format is to include one to two main stories, each comprising two to three paragraphs and accompanied by images or other media. These are followed by an "In brief" section of approximately five or more bullet-listed items, accompanied by images where appropriate.

As a core report (along with "In the media"), "News and notes" attempts to cover all major internal news from the week (however briefly) without omission, even if this means forgoing other reports. Since this report is under significant pressure to be ruthlessly objective, all available viewpoints are considered. In particular, opinions adhering to or deviating from the "official line" of the Foundation are not denigrated merely because they do so. Quotes are always be attributed, and are selected either to give a pithy summary of a viewpoint, or to pick out a particularly salient or controversial point from a piece of commentary. More minor news (such as chapter news) is sifted through and checked for integrity, representativeness and cross-community interest.

A list of news resources for "News and notes" to draw from is available at the Resources page.

In the media

While "News and notes" focuses on news within the Wikimedia movement, "In the media" (shorthand ITM) reports on depictions of and stories related to Wikipedia and Wikimedia in the media at large (in a wider sense—for example, relevant blog posts or podcasts are often included). There is nonetheless some overlap: a rule of thumb is that if the news was broken by an outside medium first, or if the fact that there has been media coverage can be regarded as more newsworthy for Signpost readers than the content of this coverage (such as when facts that are well-known among Wikipedians are reported by mainstream media for a wider audience), then it belongs in "In the media". In this section, editors strive to name and if possible link the original source, to avoid excessive copy-pasting, and to add value wherever possible by providing context or relevant details from an internal perspective (e.g. if a newspaper reports about vandalism in an article, the corresponding diffs might be linked).

Much like with "News and notes", the standard format for the report is two main stories (of 2 to 3 paragraphs each) and an "In brief" section covering five or more items. A similar, weekly-if-possible publication schedule is also upheld. Multiple smaller news sources covering the same issue may be merged to form a single larger story; it is very rare for the same issue to appear in both a main story and an "In brief" for this reason (the gender gap is one example where this has occurred). When selecting items to report on priority is generally given to novel themes and temporally significant items; to media sources with major presences; and stories of interest to the community at large and not just to any specific Wikimedian groups. The fundamental purpose of "In the media" is to inform members of the community about the popular perception of the Wikimedia movement (however divergent from reality the editing population may think it). For this reason, it is regarded as acceptable to devote significant coverage space to high-profile but factually incorrect items in the media.

A list of news resources for "In the media" to draw from is available at the Resources page.

WikiProject report

Each "WikiProject report" selects a WikiProject (or other long-term collaboration on the English Wikipedia) and attempts to inform Signpost readers about the project's work, achievements, and problems from the perspective of an interview with its active participants. This report is coordinated at the WikiProject desk and is also published on a weekly-if-possible basis. It is generally deemed acceptable to edit the words of the respondent(s) as one might edit a quotation i.e. to fix spelling, grammar and punctuation only.

Interviews are preceded by a succinct introduction and followed by a teaser about next issue's WikiProject of interest. This is possible because WikiProject reports, usually having no temporal significance, are scheduled well in advance to give project members enough time to respond. Whilst an amount of fact-checking is advisable, respondents are generally taken at their word. The report is accompanied by images. WikiProjects are rarely featured more than once, but when they are the reports are spaced at least a year apart, if not more.

Arbitration report

The "Arbitration report" covers ongoing or recently concluded arbitration cases on the English Wikipedia as well as general news related to the functions or functioning of the Arbitration Committee—the latter is especially true where these do not warrant coverage in "News and notes", which has a more project-wide focus. Written as much as possible from the perspective of an unbiased observer, this report summarizes case developments, responses, and impact (what a decision means; what insights it gives into the values the Arbitration Committee holds; how the decision might directly affect the community) for the readers. The aim is to make readers aware of and allow them to understand complex arbitration-related proceedings that they might not otherwise have any discourse with, allowing them to come to their own view regarding arbitration matter. The "Arbitration report" rarely include images but does carry infographics from time to time. The report will generally touch on all open cases and all other announcements made by the committee during the week. The exact presentation of the report is largely dependent on its author and the nature of the news in any particular week.

Historically, the "Arbitration report" has been the most controversial of The Signpost's regular reports. This is largely due to the difficulties of finding wordings that will both satisfy all parties in a case and allow the readers to make informed decisions about them. The traditional compromise on this is issue is to offer a report that may not reflect all parties' preferred presentation of event, but which is nonetheless objective and meaningful. Even achieving this lesser goal (sifting fact from fiction) is a time-intensive business, and so users mentioned in the report are now asked beforehand if they would like to submit factual corrections to a piece via the comments section of the formative article. Since a purely factual "Arbitration Report" can be prone to insensitivity, this early involvement also helps to inject a minimum of warmth back into the report. Arbitration cases are stressful and the report recognises that; for example, quotations are only ever sourced to reflect an editor's considered opinion more accurately, and never to cherry-pick divisive words said in anger.

Recent research

A monthly summary of academic studies done on Wikimedia or with Wikimedia in mind published as a joint venture between the Signpost and the Wikimedia Research Committee, both independently and in a monthly column in the Signpost. Has been published continuously every month since April 2011 (except for a gap in May 2011). The venture's meta page maintains an archive of issues.

Featured content

The "Featured content" section seeks to report on recently featured content on the English Wikipedia. This is the lightest of the regular sections and thus also carries the least serious tone, as its goal is to allow readers to marvel at recent advancements in core content on the English Wikipedia in a visually appealing, experiential way.

The basic Featured content report template is currently generated on a weekly basis via script.

Traffic report

The "Traffic report" section reports on the most popular articles on Wikipedia during the latest publication period, serving as a guided commentary on what's hot and what's not with the readership. As with the "Featured content" section the "Traffic report", serving as a curated list, generally has a light tone compared to the rest of the publication. This section is written in collaboration with the Top 25 Report.

Technology report

The third and last of the three "essential" weekly Signpost sections, the "Technology report" covers news and developments in the technical platforms used by the Wikimedia project. This includes bug fixes, new features in MediaWiki software, and changes in details regarding the operation of Wikimedia sites (including downtimes when they occur). Also within its remit are developments that do not affect Wikimedians per se, but do affect either other MediaWiki users or Wikimedia re-users, including database dump configuration, Semantic MediaWiki, and data mining technologies, amongst other things. Although the report aims to cover such matters for a general audience, sometimes all readers that will be interested in a news item will already be familiar with certain technical concepts, allowing for such context to be skipped (this mainly relates to "In brief" items). In general, two major stories precede an extended "In brief" section that particularly focuses on recent bug fixes.

A list of news resources for the "Technology report" to draw from is again available at the Resources page.

The report also republishes items from the meta-wiki effort Tech News. Previously, Tech News was simply imported to the Signpost on a weekly basis via script.

Blog

The Signpost in partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation occasionally republishes select content from the Wikimedia Blog. This is done on an irregular basis—most of what the blog publishes consists of corporate communications which are of interest to the Signpost primarily as a primary source of information from which we can construct our own reports. However, per open submission guidelines the blog occasionally publishes content either from the community or from members of the Foundation itself that we feel is interesting enough and topically relevant enough to our readers to be republished here. It is important to note that the Signpost is nonetheless a fully independent publication, and so the choice as to what to publish and even whether or not to publish is an independent decision entirely at the discretion of the editor(s)-in-chief.

A script exists for easily handling importing blog stories.

Irregular features

These features are currently published with less regularity but still appear at times. Interested in reviving them? Let us know.

Discussion report

The "Discussion report" aims to provide "a summary of the most significant ongoing discussions and polls of community-wide relevance". In the past "community" was more narrowly defined as "English Wikipedia community", but this need not be the case, and more recent reports should strive to be cosmopolitan in nature. Topics under the purview of the report include requests for comment, village pump discussions, meta discussions, proposed changes to the Manual of Style, and other such proceedings. When this section is not in regular rotation items of particular significance are absorbed into the regular reports instead, particularly the "Technology report" and "News and notes". Objectivity and impartiality are maintained at all times, although, in common with these two reports, quotations can be used to bring in particularly salient points, even when those are not (in themselves) necessarily representative of a viewpoint.

Special columns

The Signpost also publishes special columns covering topics in greater depth and length than the formats of the standard sections allow. The two most common such features (and those of most interest to most contributing writers' pieces) are Op-eds and Special reports. Submitted stories are subject to the approval of the editor-in-chief, Evad37, and may be published under other headings, such as Community view, Forum, or In focus. We also occasionally publish Book reviews.

All proposals and submissions are handled at the submissions desk. If you have an idea that doesn't fit neatly into this framework, don't hesitate to address us on our user talk pages, by email, or as a last resort, on the general Signpost talk page.

In many cases particular features or sections of features are part of a series discussion a particular topic; these articles are cataloged as series and generally make use of the {{Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/Series}} template.

We also occasionally publish rarer features under the following headings:

  • Galleries are purely photographic sections containing featured and other high-quality images in a curated, topical form. This is also currently an internal feature, though based on the feedback we receive we may open it to public submissions in the future.
  • Interviews are handled at the interviews desk. This is an internal desk meant primarily for our regular writers, as interviews of the quality publishable in the Signpost are never incidental in nature. As such the interview desk does not currently have a submission mechanism—to propose an interview leave us feedback on our talk page instead.
  • From the editor(s) postings generally communicating changes behind-the-scenes in operations at the Signpost. A catalog of these communications is available here.
  • Humour or Humor [depending on what side of the ocean you live] short pieces intended to inspire levity based on Wikipedia. Guest writers are welcome.

If you have the proposal for a new regular feature and are willing to invest the time in bringing it to fruition, feel free to leave a message on the Signpost talk page for discussion.

‎Lapsed features

Dispatches

Dispatches were handled at the featured content dispatch workshop. Dispatches are topical articles on en-wiki's various featured article procedures and vetting processes. Like the reviews desk the dispatches workshop has mostly lain dormant in recent years, in this case due to the Signpost's increasing shift towards coverage of the Wikimedia movement in general as opposed to elements of our home wiki's specific structure. Such submissions are now solicited via the special desk.

Education report

The Education desk was a short-lived feature which published a few articles in 2012. Its functions were split off from those of "News and notes" but have now been reabsorbed.

Tutorials

Tutorials were publications, coordinated at the tutorial desk and all published in 2008, which provided how-to information on editing Wikipedia.[8]

This is now considered to be outside the Signpost's scope. Given their age, much of what these articles espouse is no longer applicable or relevant today, and though the Signpost does not mark past content as explicitly historical these publications should nonetheless be read with caution. Users seeking help should refer instead to the wiki's various Help pages.

WikiWorld

WikiWorld was, as described in its first publication:

Publication ended in late 2008. Though there were calls for a spiritual continuation the Signpost has never carried comics since.

From the editor(s)

From time to time the editor(s) of the Signpost wish to communicate information about the publication itself to the audience; in such cases that week's edition of the Signpost also carries a special notice generally titled "From the editors". These publications are cataloged at the editor's desk.

Notes

  1. ^ Our guidelines are result of a long and continual process of self-definition, and so are always subject to change or renewal in the future.
  2. ^ See the 2015 Readership Survey results, specifically questions 1 and 3.
  3. ^ Indeed, over the years a manpower shortage has seemingly been the one publication constant.
  4. ^ Renamed from "Wikipedia in the news" as of the February 16, 2009 issue.
  5. ^ Renamed from "Report on lengthy litigation" as of the August 2, 2010 issue.
  6. ^ Renamed from "Features and admins" as of the May 23, 2011 issue.
  7. ^ Renamed from "In the news" as the September 10, 2012 issue.
  8. ^ Though semantically these publications were coordinated at the tutorial series page and not the tutorial desk per se, the page in question is essentially what we would term a "desk" today—the publication of tutorials simply precedes this organizational definition. As it is currently used "series" refers to something else.
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