Dispatches: In the news
In the news (ITN) is the section on the Main Page that highlights Wikipedia's best new and expanded articles regarding topics of timely interest—that is, encyclopedia articles that have been updated to reflect an important current event—rather than conventional news items. It is sometimes misunderstood that ITN does not act as a newspaper; it is not a news ticker, nor does it link to news articles at Wikinews. All links are to Wikipedia content, encouraging readers to help update the article, point out potential errors and encourage further participation.
Wikipedia is not an online newspaper and does not accept original works of journalism or first-hand reports, although many Wikipedians are motivated to create and update encyclopedic articles of timely interest, with references to the aforementioned reports. Because Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, such entries are created much faster than a "dead tree" encyclopedia. ITN originated from the September 11 attacks, when entries were created and posted on the Main Page minutes after the first reports. The entries led to an infusion of interest by editors in creating a new section on the Main Page, which linked to articles that provided readers with the context and significance behind the news.
ITN does not have rules set in stone; rather, its guidelines are just general, subjective suggestions for good items. ITN candidates are evaluated on two main grounds: the quality of the updated content and the significance of the developments described. In many cases, qualities in one area can make up for deficiencies in another. A common complaint is that the posted story is too local in scope in comparison to a more international story that is happening at the same time; however, this is often simply due to one article being created or updated more quickly by (an) editor(s) with a special interest in the story. There may be a significant delay between an event's duration, its article's update, and the item being posted on ITN.
Each blurb on ITN contains an emboldened link to an article for which cited updates have been provided. Changes in verb tense (e.g. "is" → "was") or updates that convey little or no new information beyond what is stated in the In the news blurb are deemed insufficient. A five-sentence update has generally been considered sufficient, while a one-sentence update is questionable. In the case of new event-specific articles, the traditional cut-off for 'enough' has been around three complete, thoroughly referenced and well-formed paragraphs. While articles in topics such as sporting events and economics lend themselves to tables of numbers, updates must be at least in part written in prose to qualify for ITN consideration.
Unlike the Today's Featured Article (TFA) and Did you know (DYK) sections of the Main Page, ITN will reject some items because their interest is confined to a relatively small region; this standard is subjective and is often the focus of disagreement over particular ITN candidates.
Suggesting an article
Nominations are submitted at the ITN suggestions page. The page is organised by the date which the event occurred, and pages from Portal:Current events are listed above to automatically provide possible suggestions. In addition to writing a nomination (writing a suggested wording), the item should be added to the corresponding Portal:Current events subpage. Items are discussed, and notability, quality/quantity of the update, and the wording are evaluated on the submissions page, until a consensus on the item is achieved. Due to low contributor count, consensus frequently consists of one or two people's support, unless there are serious issues with the article.
On average, two new ITN items are added each day, and ITN usually shows between four and seven items at any given point. ITN is used to balance space on the Main Page; based on the length of other sections of the page, the oldest items are added or removed. The administrators announce on the article's talk page that the article was displayed on the Main Page, and credit the nominators and major contributors.
There is no head ITN administrator, and lack of administrative help has sometimes been an issue at ITN. However, there are a number of dedicated contributors who keep the page running and updated.
ITN has two significant special cases to its normal procedures: recurring items and deaths. Wikipedia:Recurring items on ITN is a list of items, such as sporting events, that occur at regular intervals and are deemed to be significant enough to skip the full discussion at each recurrence. Discussion on including deaths of individuals at one time grew so heated that an entire discussion subpage was created. More recently, ITN candidates for death have been subject to full discussions on the candidates' page.
While lost early page revisions make it difficult to confirm, the first article on a current event to be linked from the Main Page was likely the September 11, 2001 attacks, which was created minutes after the events described. A section on the Main Page was created titled "Current Events and Breaking News", which linked to Current events, a precursor to Portal:Current events, as well as directly to relevant articles. By late 2002, the Main Page included a bullet item titled "Ongoing events", linked to "Background articles for ongoing events", which was in turn eventually redirected to Portal:Current events. There was also a bullet item for "In the news", linked to Portal:Current events, and "Recent deaths", linked to what is now Deaths in 2014. These three types of articles—background articles to topical situations, newly created articles on breaking news and deaths of prominent individuals—are now merged into Template:In the news, though there continue to be occasional sharp disagreement on how to best represent these topics.
The formation of Wikinews in 2004 resulted in the moving of particularly "news-y" content from the encyclopedia to the new sister project. ITN now includes a link to Wikinews, though there are occasional proposals, in particular by Wikinews editors, to link the bolded links from ITN directly to Wikinews articles.
A new development in a particularly important current event, reflected in an update to its associated article, sometimes results in resetting an ITN bullet point back to the top of the template. The precedent for this appears to be set by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake article, which was placed on ITN on 26 December and was kept at the top of the template until 9 January 2005. Less flatteringly, ITN has been known to stagnate when editors do not suggest new updated articles or suggested items do not reach at least a point of "no consensus", allowing an admin to exercise discretion in posting. One infamous period of particularly low turnover led to an ITN picture of Fernando Lugo, President of Paraguay, staying up for well over a week. Since then, complaints about low turnover rates on ITN tend to prompt gleeful inside jokes about "Lugo" by ITN and Main Page regulars.
The most recent structural change to the template was made temporarily for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Partially to avoid the ITN candidates page from being swamped by requests to add items to its normal queue, a direct link to Chronological summary of the 2008 Summer Olympics was added to the line normally reserved for Wikinews, Recent deaths and More current events...
A continental breakdown for the most recent month—January 2009.
Note: 1 internet-related ITN and 1 computer-virus-related ITN, attributed to the United States, i.e. North America. (Compiled by Candlewicke)
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