How to be a good fandom report (on Fan History)

November 7th, 2009 by Laura Leave a reply »

This is a crosspost from Fan History Wiki. We are crossposting it to our blog as we’d like to expose it to a wider audience because we think the information contained in it might be useful for other wiki projects and for people to better understand how to do a good job at telling the history of fandom events that are happening in the moment..  Please feel free to comment here, or on the talk page for this article to help improve it.  Please also feel free to edit the on wiki version to make those improvements. 

Introduction

Help Fan History improve, be more comprehensive and cover breaking fandom news. Covering major fandom news in the moment, as they happen, is important because articles can be used as quick reference guides for people who are curious as to what exactly happened and this information can be difficult to follow without a good, overall guide. It also helps with the preservation of material that may later disappear (via deletions or expiration of links) and allows for current events to be put into a historical context.

We need your help to cover breaking fandom news. In covering breaking news, there are three things you should keep in mind:

  1. Strive for being unbiased. Where bias is hard to avoid, present multiple perspectives. Ask for help from other editors to review and remove what might be biased language.
  2. Strive to tell a cohesive narrative. In quickly evolving events, it is crucial to understand how and when things evolved.
  3. Be organized. Compiling a link list is often the best way to begin.


News sources

Sometimes you can stumble upon fandom news on your own. You may run across an event that needs covering on your Twitter feed, on your LiveJournal (or its clones) friends list, reading your favorite blogs or as a blow up happens on your favorite mailing list, message board, fansite or archive. If news is not obvious or you don’t know where to go to get, there are several places you can to find news to cover. Sites that are favorites of Fan History’s admins to check for news include:

This list currently over represents with LiveJournal media fandom because admins are a bit biased in that direction and this type of news is the kind that we get the most incoming visitors from. You can find other sources for fandom news. Please check Help:Be a Fan History Reporter/News sources by fandom for links to those sources. When documenting the history of an event, you don’t need to focus on fandoms and communities that fall under the purview of the communities covered just by those links.


Naming the situation

In many cases, small kerfluffles can be worked into an existing article. If the news is about a convention, the reporting can go on the page about that convention. This is how the situation was handled for TwiCon. Sometimes though, fandom news needs to go on its own article. The general rule of thumb is that if the link list in reporting a situation is more than ten links AND/OR the kerfluffle section would be longer than a third of the length of the article AND/OR the kerfluffle involves a large audience beyond the original intended one, a new article about the situation should be created.

Once you’ve determined that a new article is needed, how do you create a name for it? First, read a bit about the situation. In many cases, participants will have already coined a phrase to describe a situation. This was the case for SurveyFail and Race Fail 2009. If no one has coined a name for the situation you are reporting on, then you are free to name it yourself. The name should reflect what is going on. If there is a particularly influential post with a title that gives an idea of what is going on, you can borrow that. Otherwise if the situation is a fail one, it should include Fail in the title. If the situation is a kerfluffle/kerfuffle, it should include that in the title. If it is a wank, Wank should appear in the title. If it is none of those, chose some other short phrase to describe the situation. This was done for a situation involving Eli Roth that was named Eli Roth saga of doom. After you have chosen the descriptor, couple that before or after the main focus of the topic you are reporting on. Examples of names of topics cover that you can model naming after:

When thinking of a name, do not worry too much about it. It is easy to move an article or use redirects to point to that article if other names for a situation develop. It is a wiki and the article name being less than ideal is not going to matter. If you later have regrets about what you named an article, just comment on a talk page to ask for people’s opinions on what to rename it.


Links list

The heart of most of Fan History’s fandom news related articles is the link lists. These are easy to build and do not require extensive knowledge of a situation. Often, they are one of the first things that reporters write and they are a good place to start. If you do not have a good grasp of a situation, or the situation is developing quickly, we recommend that you start your reporting by compiling a link list. In some cases, this is all

Examples of articles with link lists that you can model your own article after include:

Link lists should be organized by date and author. The purpose of providing two versions of one list of urls is to make it easier for people to find content, and to prevent bias in how links are organized. Sorting by date also helps construct the narrative of the events for readers of the article and for other reporters trying to document the event. Sorting by author helps to identify key participants in events and makes it easy integrate those links in articles about members of fandom.

Links on the list you create should be formatted like this:

* [http://link Link title or blog post title)]: author[?] on Month day[?], year[?]

This provides consisting formatting across other news stories and makes it easy to include parts of the list on other page while providing additional context.


Documenting an event

When documenting a situation, there are three goals: accurately portray what happened in a neutral fashion, provide a cohesive narrative and preserving the history of an event.

There are several tricks to writing in a neutral fashion. One way is to try to provide relevant quotes from all sides; do not just quote one side. Second, try to seek out links that represent multiple points of view. For example, in a situation like FanLib, you would want to provide quotes from FanLib, FanLib supporters and FanLib detractors. You would want to link to all of those with out placing a value judgement on the links.

Sometimes, it appears like people are overwhelmingly supporting one side and it makes it impossible to provide a neutral perspective. In these cases, the best way to handle things neutrally is to identify quotes from the minority that the majority has identified as the most problematic. Use these quotes so that people can see them in their original with out the commentary. Provide links back to that material. Include links to commentary about those quotes in the link section. Handling things in this fashion helps to accurately represent the minority view and highlights complaints of the majority.

One of the ways to provide a cohesive narrative is to create a timeline of events. When you are first starting to write the article, you may want to use a standard Fan History style timeline with bullets stating that an event occurred on this site on this date with relevant citations. As you improve the timeline, take each of those bulleted points and expand on it by providing relevant quotes and screencaps. Provide additional context to those events, like what something happened in response to or why this event is worth including in the report. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, comment on the talk page to ask for assistance.

Preserving history is important as some links disappear, people will make posts private or delete comments. When you suspect that content may disappear, screencap the conversation and upload the screencap to Fan History. Put the image in the relevant category or create a new one for this event if there are multiple images. If you are unsure how to do this, leave a comment on the talk page for the image and ask an administrator for help in figuring this out.

In some cases, it is important that the text be more easily searchable. If that is case, you can create a page with the name of the post, put {{preserving history}} at the top and ask an administrator to lock this article as a historical document. This type of history preservation is useful for documents like Terms of Services when people may want to compare different versions.

One of the things that we ask at Fan History is that if you are reporting on a story that you do not drop in and comment to people that you linked to in order to inform them that you linked to them. In some cases, such as situations like Race Fail 2009, this could lead to derailing of important conversations. Some of the topics that you may cover are important and derailing would be unfortunate. You are free to post links elsewhere, pointing people to the article as a resource but we ask that reporters for a topic do not drop links. This is similar to the policy at fandom wank of asking users not to “troll” the wank.

Another thing that we ask is that as you report on event, remember to follow Fan History’s rules. Some important rules to remember:

  • Do not reveal private information in an article. If during the course of reporting an event, some one does this and you think it is important to cover, explain what happened with out providing the private information. Link to the source that provides that information you are providing.
  • Do not use profanity unless you’re quoting some one else and only then, if the profanity helps with documenting the evtn.
  • Do cite sources as often as possible and assume good faith on the part of other reporters.
  • Do not write in the first person. If you are involved in an event, you can get around this by labeling a section {{MPOV}} and giving your account of the events.
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