Wikipedia:How the Current events page works
The Current events portal and associated pages are where we list news on a daily basis with a link to background articles. Of primary importance are events. In addition, trends and developments are also listworthy. However, we do not list editorials and opinion pieces laden with point-of-view.
How the current events portal helps Wikipedia
Many people use search engines to find information on current events. Probably a very significant percentage of searches on Yahoo, Google, etc., on any given day, are on topics that are big at the moment. If we make an effort to add relevant links to the current events portal and to create good articles for whatever that page is linking to, we will be useful to those visitors. We will also establish a reputation for being a place where people can come to find information on things that are happening right now.
Wikipedia is not a news service
That's the job of Wikinews. We shouldn't be in the business of writing articles about every breaking news story, unless we can be very confident, as in the case of the September 11 attacks, that in the future there will be a significant call for an encyclopedia article on that topic. One very significant danger is that news articles must be kept current in order to remain accurate. Wikipedians might begin a news article and then simply lose interest in the topic, whereupon the article becomes inaccurate. In short, we aren't set up to be an amateur news organization, and we shouldn't try to compete with professional news organizations.
Moreover, Wikipedia is not a collection of primary source material. Direct first-hand reporting of current events is primary source material. Wikinews accepts primary source material, however, and is a repository of such primary source material that is there for Wikipedia to cite.
Wikinews can also be cited in its capacity as an amalgam of primary sources. Citing a news summary article on Wikinews, which in its turn cites the multitude of news sources that it is summarizing, can save Wikipedia the trouble of citing the long list of news sources directly itself.
The current events portal is a news backgrounder
What we can do, probably better than professional news organizations in many cases (who often give inadequate background information), is write in-depth background articles on topics that deeply inform and facilitate a sophisticated understanding of current events. Hence, while we almost certainly wouldn't want to write an article about, for example, the fall of Mazari Sharif to the Northern Alliance, we certainly would welcome articles about the Northern Alliance, Mazar Sharif, ethnic conflict, etc. In many ways, having that background is more important than following the daily news itself.
Wikipedia and Wikinews complement each other in this respect. Just as Wikinews can provide or collate primary source material on current events for Wikipedia, saving Wikipedia trouble, Wikipedia can provide in-depth background articles to Wikinews about people, places, and things in the news, saving Wikinews the trouble of writing, and maintaining, backgrounders. (Professional news organizations have no encyclopaedia as a sibling project to call upon.)
Setting the context
It is customary, if possible, to indicate the context for a story at the start of the line. A good (hypothetical) example would be:
The context string, SCO v. IBM Linux lawsuit, links to a story on the relevant topic. This is ideal but not always possible.
Here is another good example:
- Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The context is not the geographical location
For example, this is incorrect:
- The NDP government of Lorne Calvert is returned to power with a majority government in the general election. (2)
However, this is correct:
- Saskatchewan general election, 2003
- The NDP government of Lorne Calvert is returned to power with a majority government. (2)
as is this:
- Politics of the Netherlands
This is incorrect:
- Solar system
The solar system is the location, not the context. This is better:
- The sun surprises astronomers by launching another solar flare, this time the largest ever recorded. (4)
The context is not the subject
This is incorrect context:
- Jessica Lynch
- A new book claiming to reveal details of her capture and captivity. She was supposedly treated brutally, as the author claims was evinced by her physical condition, and, according to medical records, he says, was anally raped. The book says some Iraqi doctors said Lynch was virtually dead. However, Lynch has since stated that she does not recall any sexual assault and was "adamantly opposed to including the rape claim in the book", but that Bragg wore her down and told her that "people need to know that this was what can happen to women soldiers." (5)
Why? Because Jessica Lynch is the entry's subject, not its context. It would be better to rewrite it with a context like this:
- A new book claims to reveal details of Jessica Lynch's capture and captivity. She was supposedly treated brutally, as the author claims was evinced by her physical condition, and, according to medical records, he says, was anally raped. The book says some Iraqi doctors said Lynch was virtually dead.  However, Lynch has since stated that she does not recall any sexual assault and was "adamantly opposed to including the rape claim in the book", but that Bragg wore her down and told her that "people need to know that this was what can happen to women soldiers." (5)
Yet another problematic emphasis of subject over context:
- After 26 years, and at a distance from Earth of over 8 billion miles, Voyager 1 exits the solar system. It is expected to keep on transmitting into the 2020s. (6)
To restore emphasis to the context, try something like this:
- Voyager program
- List, if possible and appropriate, local time and UTC for events. For example, if an earthquake takes place, it is useful to have both a common reference (i.e. UTC) and the local time, so as to be able to place it in context (rush hour, lunchtime, etc.). Otherwise prefer local time.
- Events are always put under the date in the local time zone.
An example of UTC format:
December 23, 2004