Wikipedia:Let the dust settle

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Many current events receive a large amount of media coverage while they are occurring. However, not all topics so covered are historically significant, and may simply disappear from the news after a while. Other topics are historically significant, but details may change rapidly as they unfold. Wikipedia is not a crystal ball, so articles should not be created for subjects that may be significant until time has shown that they are, and adding details which will soon be outdated/corrected should be avoided if possible. This is especially important for people in the media, due to the fluid nature of reliable sources for breaking news and the risk that details will go uncorrected if the event drops out of the media spotlight. Events which are currently significant may be documented at Wikinews or mentioned at current events.

Relevant policies and guidelines[edit]

  • Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not :
    • "Wikipedia authors should strive to write articles that will not quickly become obsolete."
    • Wikipedia articles are not news reports
    • "Wikipedia is not a crystal ball"
  • Wikipedia:Verifiability :
    • Information added to Wikipedia must be verifiable from a reliable source
  • Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons :
    • "Biographies of living people must be written conservatively and with due regard to the subject's privacy"
    • "Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a newspaper. It is not our job to be sensationalist, or to be the primary vehicle for the spread of titillating claims about people's lives."
  • Wikipedia:Reliable sources
    • Sources referenced in articles must be available for other editors to check (not necessarily online)
  • Wikipedia:Neutral point of view
    • "All significant points of view are presented, not just the most popular one."

Consider stability as well as reliability for sources[edit]

All material added to Wikipedia must be verifiable from a reliable source. A reliable source has a good reputation for accuracy, and the source can be verified by other editors. However, with breaking news, reports are often made without the usual level of background checking, and are often superseded by later reports. Thus, when evaluating a source for reliability, attention should also be given to the stability of the source, considering whether the speed of publishing is likely to result in the source issuing updates in situ. Citing a source which subsequent corrects its information will result in Wikipedia reporting incorrect information, which is not backed up by the source it cites, and the original source no longer exists. This is especially important for initial reports on previously unknown people, as initial reports can include speculation can often prove to be completely unfounded and potentially harmful. This problem is compounded by the fact that when an event/person drops out of the news, editor interest rapidly fades, often leaving the article in an uncorrected state.

Reports on breaking news stories can often be driven by a desire to get a "scoop", including less reliable sources or minor details, which would not get included in a less time-critical report. Wikipedia is not driven by a printing deadline, so it is better to wait until details have been clarified than try to track scoops and correct later. Sources from "scoop-based" reports should be treated with caution, especially if the information in question is not repeated in later, less hurried, reports. A newspaper might only have to be "correct enough for today", but Wikipedia should strive for more.

Write for history, not for the news[edit]

Wikipedia should write about the big picture, it should not attempt to track details that are constantly changing. When writing about a historically significant event that's currently happening, editors should ask themselves whether the information they are adding is likely to be replaced within a short time. If it is, that should be an indication that it's too fluid to add to an encyclopedia and to consider Wikinews instead, at least until the information referenced has stabilised.

When a story is current, but has no notable new developments, newspapers can often "pad" out a story with minor details as "blank pages don't sell newspapers" where the minor details are of little note. Wikipedia is not a newspaper and so has no need to include the same "padding". If a Wikipedia article relies on padding for length, this may be an indication that the article is written in newspaper, and not encyclopedic, style.

First impressions count, but aren't always correct[edit]

Because of the pressure on media to follow breaking stories, news reports may initially concentrate on one popular view, and it may take some time for reliable secondary sources to check primary sources, and present fully researched views which may end up being more significant. Wikipedia should strive to cover all viewpoints, without giving any undue weight, but that is difficult to do until all viewpoints are publicly known. Editors should be wary of adding too much information based on sources published very shortly after or during a current event, but instead allow time for secondary sources to do research and publish material without time pressure, which should give a broader picture and better impression of what viewpoints are deemed significant.

Notability requires more than 15 minutes of fame[edit]

People and events in the current news can receive a lot of attention, but it is often hard to tell whether this current focus will evolve into notability, or simply fade out once their 15 minutes is up. Many reports on current issues include speculation on their long term relevance, but this may not be borne out in practice. Wikipedia is not a crystal ball, so editors should consider whether the subject would still be notable enough if the predictions did not come to pass. If a subject would be still notable without the speculation, or if the subject is notable because of the speculation, then it may be worth including, but otherwise editors should wait and see what actually is notable, and not write articles based on what may be notable.

Primum non nocere – First, do no harm[edit]

Being mentioned in the news does not make a person a public figure, so due consideration is required as per Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons#Non-public figures. Editors should exercise restraint and include only information relevant to their notability. If that relevant information is insufficient for an article, it may be appropriate to be included elsewhere, but editors should not be tempted to add otherwise non-notable information in order to "pad" out the article. Creation of stubs about such people should be exercised with caution as the existence of a stub may encourage other editors to add padding. In this case, think not only of your own actions, but what your actions may invite others to do.

Don't start what you won't finish[edit]

Accusation Pg.1, apology Pg.7: Someone being accused makes bigger news than someone being released which ends up in a person being accused of something very publicly but the fact of them being found innocent is not as public. Wikipedia should be careful of situations like this, when it comes to a living person, do not add "accused of a crime" unless you are committed to add the followup when/if the result of a case is released. In marginal cases, consider waiting to the result of the trial; if guilty, media attention will give strong references; if innocent, media attention will be slight, and might be ignored. Avoid at all costs situations reporting a person as accused of a crime, and leaving them in a situation of being so-accused when the trial has been finished in their favour or the charge has been dropped.


Instead of creating an article on a new event in the news, editors should consider whether they should post to Wikinews as a breaking story/update or adding a reference to Current Events may be more suitable.

Before adding to an existing article on a new event in the news, editors should consider how fluid the information is, it may be more appropriate to add the details to Wikinews, and include that in an attached {{wikinews}} box.