|This page in a nutshell: Common sense and Wikipedia policy dictates that editors must practice discretion regarding the proper inclusion of relevant and well-sourced content.|
Editorial discretion allows editors to evaluate sources, balance claims, and otherwise distill bodies of information into accurate, verifiable and comprehensive articles; accordingly with the neutral point of view policy, we need to accord appropriate weight to all information we include, to make sure we represent a topic properly and without distorting emphasis on any one part. Editors should exercise their discretion to make sure that relevant sources and claims are reflected fairly. Consensus may determine, among other things, whether a given source or claim is appropriate for article inclusion; meeting Wikipedia policies and guidelines is necessary to allow inclusion, but not necessarily sufficient to warrant inclusion. It's up to Wikipedia's editors to use editorial discretion to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Consensus and Editorial Discretion
The content of any particular article is subject to editorial discretion developed via consensus. Wikipedia is not paper, which means we can write almost an unlimited amount on any topic. Still, there are limits on what we ought to include, and especially how we ought to write it.
The way we make these decisions is through the consensus process, which can take place with or without explicit discussion. The normal editing process is itself a process of developing consensus; discussion is only necessary when the normal editing process has come to an impasse.
Editorial Discretion is not Original Research
It is not original research to make judgement calls on what content to include or not include, how to frame an issue or claim, or what claims and subjects are suitable for Wikipedia. We are not here to robotically compile facts and citations according to a strict set of rules, we are here to create and edit an encyclopedia. This task requires the application of judgement and discretion in order to create a neutral and readable encyclopedia.
The policy on original research is sometimes misconstrued as a blanket prohibition on any application of judgement or critical thinking by editors. The intent of that policy was never to turn editing into an unthinking task, and our articles into mere compilations of published data.
Facts and Claims
The most important (and readily citable) claims should go in the lead of an article, not the most salacious. Details reported only in lower-quality media (i.e., tabloids or self-published fringe works) require due caution, especially when used in contentious articles and biographies of living persons. This doesn't exclude using these sources, but it's always prudent to remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
While Wikipedia is not censored, that doesn't mean that every potentially offensive image should be included. It's within the realm of editorial discretion for editors to decide not to include an image. The debate should weigh the value of the image against the potential offense caused. Simply being offensive to a group of people is not a good reason to remove an image, but if the image is both offensive and of low encyclopedic or educational value in its current context, then it is valid to consider removing it.
- Administration - discuses both the human administrative structure of Wikipedia, as well as its non-human components.
- Core content policies – a brief summary and background on Wikipedia's core content policies.
- Editing environment - describes how Wikipedia is governed? What happens when content disputes 'boil over' into accusations of bad conduct?
- Editor integrity - discusses how editors have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of Wikipedia and respect intellectual property rights of the sources they draw upon when they create and improve encyclopedia pages.
- Formal organization - discusses who does what on Wikipedia? What does Wikipedia say itself about its own formal organizational structure?
- The essence of Wikipedia – describes how Wikipedia is the harnessing of the collective intelligence and collaborative efforts of editors who hold opposing points of view, in an attempt to preserve all serious contributions which are reliably sourced.
- The rules are principles - describes how policies and guidelines exist only as rough approximations of their underlying principles.
- Wikipedia is a community - describes how there is nothing wrong with occasionally doing other things than writing the encyclopedia, and that community spirit is a positive thing.
- Wikipedia is a volunteer service - discusses how editors on Wikipedia are mainly volunteers. Editors can contribute as much as they want, and however long they desire.