With WikiTribune, Wales is looking to apply the wiki model to news, creating an organisation where journalists and community members are on equal footing, and members can contribute to the reporting, helping to produce and fact-check global stories.
Bale is the former chief executive officer of the Center for Public Integrity, and previously worked for news organisations including CNN International, MSN and Reuters.
As launch editor, Bale is tasked with creating an editorial framework, integrating Wales' vision with a "recognisably journalistic product," he told Journalism.co.uk.
"I accept it will be a tremendous amount of work with the product development team, because everything that we intend to publish is going to need to function in a way that also fulfils that vision. Everything will be shareable, everything will be verifiable, and how we do annotations and attributions is going to be extremely important."
The first edition of WikiTribune, which is independent from Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation, is expected to be published later this year. The team already consists of six editorial staff from different backgrounds – WikiTribune intends to create a core team of 10 journalists, for which it has met its crowdfunding target, said Bale.
Starting from the premise that ‘news is broken’, Wales is aiming to create a news product where readers can see the source of the information included in the story, and flag or fix articles working alongside professional editorial staff.
This model harks back to the member-backed approach at Dutch outlet De Correspondent, now also launching in the US, where journalists use the expertise of the members in their reporting, informing them whenever they start researching a new story.
Other organisations funded through a membership model or that function as a co-operative have invited readers to get involved in the reporting process. However, WikiTribune has scale to its advantage, Bale told Journalism.co.uk.
"The degree of participation of the community that supports WikiTribune and contributes to it is going to be one of the factors that I suspect will differentiate it from others."
This bring about a number of management and quality questions, he added.
"The biggest challenges for me and for many of the journalists who will work here is this surrendering of control, if you like, to the community, this participation with the community on an equal basis.
"It's a sort of mental shift that I think not many journalists are used to or equipped for.
"The good thing is that we have a number of people with significant experience in Wikipedia who understand the issues involved with working alongside that community of experts and we'll learn a lot from that, but how that works in the day to day flow of news, how we choose the kinds of stories that we cover, and how the points at which the community either takes those stories over or initiates them is going to be really challenging and interesting.”
Free daily newsletter
- Inside the FT's approach to online comments and audience participation
- Johann Hari to return to Independent in '4 or 5 weeks'
- Johann Hari offers to repay Orwell Prize money
- Orwell Prize delays 'unanimous' Johann Hari decision
- CMS 2010: Newspapers wasting money on expensive columnists, says Jimmy Wales