The Signpost needs your help.
Last week's issue of the Signpost was the best issue yet during my tenure as editor-in-chief. We published a lot of strong material that readers responded to positively — and sometimes negatively! My thanks to our goes to our contributors, including Andreas Kolbe, Armbrust, GamerPro64, Thibbs, Serendipodous, and the work behind the scenes of people like Tony1, Resident Mario, and others.
When people look at the quality of the issue we published and the number of contributors, I can understand why they might think the Signpost is doing just fine—but we're in trouble. During much of this year, we had a strong core of four to five editorial board members and a number of other regular contributors. More recently, however, we've lost some of those contributors, and board members either left or had to drastically reduce the time they spent on the Signpost due to real-life commitments. This includes my co-editor-in-chief, Go Phightins!, who is currently inactive but will continue to contribute sporadically. We barely have time to publish what we do publish, which is usually many days late.
The time demands are so many that we wanted to publish this piece you’re reading right now several weeks ago, but I didn’t have the time to organize and write it until now.
Some of our regular contributors create self-contained sections that can be published with little effort by others. For example, Serendipodous and Milowent create Traffic on their own—probably the most consistently high-quality section in the Signpost—and most weeks we publish it without changing anything except the occasional stray comma.
Other sections require significant work. For example, take last week's special report on GamerGate. It was originally published in the WikiProject Video Games Newsletter, so all we had to do was slap it in a page of our own, right? Not really. Let's consider how much time it took to get that piece to our readers.
- First, Thibbs deserves full credit for doing nearly all of the work, from writing an excellent piece to creating the graphs and contacting the participants.
- Second, however, you also have to consider the time it took the staff of the newsletter to prepare it for the original publication, as well as the time of the four interviewees and the work it took to coordinate their contributions.
- Third, to publish it in the Signpost, three current and former members of the editorial board examined and copyedited it in-depth because of the piece's length and the controversial nature of the material.
As you can see, in addition to the hard work of the writers who produce our features, a lot of work goes into publishing the Signpost that goes unseen and unnoticed by our readers. But they would surely notice its absence, and as those tasks fall to fewer and fewer people, we struggle to keep the quality of the publication high.
Currently we have a very fluid organizational structure, which is a charitable way of saying we are unorganized. It has its advantages, being flexible and adaptable, but many regular tasks are not getting done and we don't have the opportunity to take on new ones. When someone brings us an exciting new idea for the Signpost, again and again our response has to be "We love it, but who’s going to do it?"
With that in mind, three members of the editorial board met at WikiConference and hammered out a reorganization plan. "Compartmentalization" is the key word; we want to take regular tasks and distribute them among more people so they get done regularly and don't fall on just a few people, prompting them to burn out and leave. We've sketched out a structure and we'd like to find people to fill these roles. We still want to be flexible; more than one person could share the duties of a single role, or, more likely, one person could take on more than one role.
Under this plan, the Signpost will still be coordinated by an editor-in-chief. They will also help fill in whatever roles are needed temporarily. The new editorial board will consist of the EIC and eight associate editors. Four of them will be responsible for coordinating and publishing (but not writing) each week's edition. This includes coordinating with contributors, copyediting, and making sure that their sections are publication-ready, with images and conforming to the Signpost style guide.
- News: News and Notes, In the Media, Arbitration Report, and Technology Report. This role will be filled by Andreas Kolbe.
- Features: Featured Content, Traffic, WikiProject Report, Recent Research, Gallery, Tech News, and Blog.
- Editorial: Op-eds and Editorial. This role will be filled by me.
- Special Reports/Projects: This role will be filled by Tony1.
They will be assisted by four others:
- Publication: This person will coordinate with the content editors to set a publication time and will be the person responsible for performing the publication process. A bot does most of the work; the primary tasks are organizing the front page each week (writing snippets and choosing an image) and cleaning up whatever the bot missed when it skips a step. This person will have to be comfortable enough with wiki-markup to cut and paste whatever is missing from the publication instruction page to the appropriate Signpost pages.
- Personnel and recruitment: We need a people person. This role will be responsible for the care, upkeep, and recruitment of contributors and dealing with any issues.
- Social media and outreach: This person will be responsible for promoting the Signpost via social media (primarily Facebook and Twitter, but an ambitious individual could branch out) and for making sure suggestions get to the appropriate editor.
- Style/Tagging/Templates: This person will be responsible for maintaining the Signpost's style guide, templates, and tagging initiative. This role will be filled by Resident Mario.
Of course, none of these people would have any work to do if it weren't for our contributors. There has traditionally been an overlap between the roles of editor and contributor, but we and our readers don't want the same people writing everything every week.
Even if you don't want to commit to a weekly role on the Signpost, we need your help writing the content for these sections, even if you only contribute an occasional small piece to a section like In the Media or Featured Content. Feel free to contact the editor for the section you are interested in, or just dive into a draft article and start writing.
We realize this is an ambitious plan, but we don't have any choice but to try. The alternatives mean, at minimum, a lower-quality and less-frequent Signpost. If we don't get more help soon, the next step will be to permanently cancel regular sections and make the Signpost a bi-weekly or monthly publication.
We don't want to fall silent like our sibling publications on the French and Portuguese Wikipedias. Thank you for reading and supporting Wikipedia's weekly newspaper.
— Gamaliel, Signpost editor-in-chief