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Bunk Satirizes Wikis and Los Angeles Times at WRT: Writer Response Theory




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The 10th anniversary issue of Bunk Magazine is online with a new issue, featuring:

Los Wikiless Timespedia

The premise: The Los Angeles Times, to save its flagging enterprise, has relaunched itself in an entirely wiki format as The Los Wikiless Timespedia.

LA Times Switches to All-Wiki Format in 11th-Hour Battle for Life

In a desperate attempt to stop the involuntary leakage of its readership, the slightly less-old gray lady has tried the Depends of new media, embracing a technology that almost spelt its d-e-a-t-h in bright blue hyperlinked Arial.

logo_los_wikiless_150.gif
The piece plays with the mode of wikis and is a consideration of how old media producers get new media wrong. By putting it in wiki-format, the Magazine allows the readers (and spambots) to supply the punchline. User contributions are featured in a stream on the front page with an RSS feed attached for subscribers.

Of course, the LA Times, famously attempted a wiki editorial page, dubbed “Wikitorial,” and were so pummeled with spam and user fighting that they had to take it down. Since then, the newspaper has avoided such sordid media forms, though it has increasingly added more user mobility on its website.

Think of it as: Write Your Own Onion or A Million Little Bunkers.

The goal has been to reflect on the ways in which old, established, and somewhat failing old-media attempt to coopt the tools and tropes of new media. Of course, the other target is the new media itself and the many ways it also fails to live up to the hype. Bunk is fairly agnostic here, leaving it to the readers to decide. The humor examines newspapers and wiki conventions, including:

  • Revert Wars
  • Histories/Summaries
  • Talk Pages
  • Interwiki links
  • Stubs

You can already see examples of contested articles, articles accidentally pasted in help pages, odd comments in the update histories.

Of course there is also plenty of room for wiki parodies of newspaper content. The issue already includes: Want Ads, Reader-drawn Comics, DIY Obituaries, Kids Soccer Reports, and more.

The feature went live officially April 1, and it will remain the Bunk front page for at least 6 months. Afterwards it will enter the hallowed Bunk archives.

Stats

So far, there are:

167 total pages of content (including talk pages)
61 registered users (registration required to play)
Pretty good for a week of content.

Tech

The LWT is published on a customized installation of mediawiki, employing various extensions and extending others a bit further.

Some notable articles

[Of course, they were notable and articles as of the composition of the post — and have possibly been reduced to meaningless characters by now!]

Serial [Comma] on the Loose

On the bottom of our front-page comes our homage to reversion and edit wars plays out across this tale of an alleged serial killer.

Foreign Correspondent: Lars Hamson

This nordic contributor has written three of the most popular pages, so I cannot help but recommend his works, that even have tangential ties to Los Angeles.

Eastside-Westside Feud over Tupac Shakur

This article offers up an article’s history as its mark. It also features a diff comparison of two versions of the article itself.

We Request That you join us in some cyber-satire. This is online humor that everyone can edit.

Movie Reviews of YouTube World of War Craft PvP videos.

Fun in the Discussion

Thanks to locative-media innovator Jeremy Hight, there’s a Choose Your Own Adventure excerpt in the Talk pages for Admin — which should give you some idea of the fun he’s having in the “background” of the Wiki. See his contributions in this easy-to-read list.

The Wiki Experiment Status

So far, the reader-written comment has proven by far funnier than what we started out with. Reader-writers have kept to the premise quite well with quality contributions — even more than they’d have to since presumably any content proves part of the point.

Incidentally, the “You Suck” article is one of the most popular with clickers. I’d link to it, but it’s a bit of sucker punch. In fact, it won the prestigious 2008 RickRoll award for online deception.

The LA Times since Wikitorial

Since this embarrassment, the LA Times has continued to attempt to evolve. On the one hand, it has slashed staff and lost/dropped editors. On the other hand, it has added various online social media features.

On the Editors Weblog, Carolyn Lo brings us these thoughts via the Herald Leader:

Despite the current financial struggles of “old media,” John Carroll, former editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Los Angeles Times, believes newspapers and other “old media” should unite with bloggers and other “new media” to “keep each other honest and provide the kind of public service journalism a republic needs to survive.”

Surely, Carroll is on the mark, and the Times is already attempting to change.

Birds of Paradise: A wiki novel?
or A wiki? Novel.

Following Penguin’’s lead (and wikinovela), Times columnist Steve Lopez is in the midst of a collaborative wikinovel entitled, “Birds of Paradise.” Readers seem pleased with how it is turning out. They are up to their 12th chapter. On the other hand, a chapter is basically a page of text.

This project seems much more successful than the previous endeavor — although on closer inspection, it’sa wiki in name only. The site does not seem to be using wiki software to operate. Users cannot edit each other’s entries.

In fact, on final inspection, the project seems to be a chain-story contest with comments. The Pittsburgh Press used to do something like this back in the 1980s. At least it has a place to post comments.

We have begun a wiki review of the wiki novel in the wiki newspaper.

Funny 2.0. Christie St. Martin

Christie writes a column of daily humor links and was responsible for sneaking the Los Wikiless Timespedia into the LA Times here. Christie curates or serves up links with commentary.

Personalized News: My LATimes

Offers a stripped-down iGoogle or Pageflakes, where readers can easily stream the content they want from the Times. I do not personally know anyone who streams content only from one source, but someone could presumably customize their LATimes content streams and then send that to wherever they read all the rest of their news.

Your Scene:

A photo-sharing portion of the Times, where users can share and favorite images that have not been photoshopped. (Images cannot be “retouched in any way”) Not sure what the LA Times’ own policy is on the latter.

Blogs aplenty

Actually, the Times offers around 30 blogs. This is not old media switching to new media, but old media going online, like your great aunt watching YouTube. As far as I can tell, an LA Times blog is just like a regular blog but searchable through the LATimes.com portal and harder to contact the author.
Fusions:
The LA Personal link takes you to an eHarmony page?

Speaking of RickRolls, just by having its archive open online, it is changing its nature.

At the end of the Twittering day, I’m still wondering how these forms change (essentially) when they are moved from open public forums to institutionalized forums.

Bunk Magazine was first published in 1998. It continues to develop new media satire and parody.

Our goal at Bunk has been to provide new-fangled playgrounds for readers and writers online. We co-opt or (mis)appropriate new forms as they come along.

Early Reception

There’s been some positive early feedback on LWT:

On Poynter, Amy Gahran (of Contentious) (via David Thomas on Twitter) gave the first real review.
LA Observed: According to his blog, Kevin Roderick is:

is a veteran Los Angeles journalist, the author of two books about the city, and a native Angeleno.

GTxA helped launch the April Fool’s angle.Liz Losh gave a push on Virtualpolitik.
Turbulence aired the call.

And this WRT post serves a launching point to further discuss these issues but as another invitation for Writers to Respond to the Timespedia by contributing.



1 Response to “ Bunk Satirizes Wikis and Los Angeles Times”

  1. 1 stressless phil

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    Interesting article. I’m surprised though that the LA Times decided to approach the problem by moving away from the Wiki and going with a Wordpress format. Really strange. I think you get just as much spam with that as anything else. I guess even newspapers have to keep readers interested. :)

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