According to a recent article in the New York Times, the Wikipedia served as “an essential news source for hundreds of thousands of people on the Internet trying to understand the shootings at Virginia Tech University.
The Times reports that at least 2074 editors created a polished, detailed article with more than 140 footnotes, sidebars and timelines. More than 750,000 visitors–an average of 4 per second–visited the site during the first two days after the shooting. The Roanoke Times noted that Wikipedia had “emerged as the clearinghouse for detailed information on the event. The Wikipedia served similar purposes during the Southeast Asian tsunami in 2004 and the London bombings in 2005.
Wikipedia isn’t a newspaper. As the Times article notes:
Professional news is the place to get the facts on the ground — after all, that’s where Wikipedia contributors are getting their information, too,” said Michael Snow, a Wikipedia administrator. “Wikipedia distinguishes itself by the ability to bring all the facts, and useful background information, together in one place.
In discussing the construction of the Virginia Tech article, the Times piece gives some good insights into editing process.