In a world where fact is increasingly treated like fiction, and fiction is presented as fact, few online resources have managed to preserve and retain their credibility the way Wikipedia has.

The online, open-source encyclopedia has become an indispensable reference tool for those in search of information, including journalists.

In fact, behind every Wikipedia page there is a newsroom of sorts, populated by volunteer contributors and editors, operating with full transparency, researching and referencing every claim to make sure that the content fits the facts.

Historically the big question about Wikipedia is can you trust it, right? ... I'd say the vast majority of people do

Katherine Maher, Wikimedia Foundation director

The Listening Post's Richard Gizbert sat down with Katherine Maher, who has been Wikimedia Foundation's executive director for almost one year, to talk about the methods and standards that make Wikipedia a source that journalists, students, teachers and professionals in all industries feel they can rely on.

The discussion was held before the decision, taken by a group of Wikipedia editors, to ban British paper the   Daily Mail as a source for the website, citing the paper's reputation for "poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication". In short: fake news.

The conversation began on the subject of trust, whether in the news media or in a source such as Wikipedia itself.

"Wikipedians have been working on distinguishing fact from fiction for 16 years now," said Maher.

"Historically, the big question about Wikipedia is can you trust it, right? And here we are, 16 years in, and based on the number of people who use Wikipedia every single day, I'd say the vast majority of people do trust it.

"And so we're in this environment now where the question of trust is being reflected back on the media rather than Wikipedia. It's a funny inversion of where things were 15 years ago or so."

Maher believes that news organisations can learn from Wikipedia.

"News organisations are definitely doing some soul-searching right now about how they open up newsrooms to the public," she said.

"How do they explain how the sausage gets made really? Wikipedia does that in every single article that is written."

'A newsroom behind every article'

"There's a newsroom behind every article. It's called a talk page. It's where Wikipedians get together, it's where they talk through what's notable, what's not, what's factual, what has bias in it, perhaps. And then the thing that is also really different is the platform itself is so transparent.

"On every Wikipedia page you can find the citation of where information comes from and you can see every single edit that has ever been made over time. You know, I don't think most newsrooms are set up to do that."

Wikipedia relies on generosity.

In 2016, the organisation raised almost all of its operating budget from small donations.

"Every single dollar for us counts because it's part of our model of independence," said Maher.

Asked where she sees hope in that world, Maher said: "The world is changing for the better. Information is more accessible than it has ever been. We can call it up, no matter where we are at any time. It has made the need for rote memorisation less useful. It has made the need for us to be able to engage in critical thinking more useful than ever and it certainly hasn't changed the need for us to know about the world around us.

"I think that knowledge is continuing to be created, in fact at rates that are far greater than have ever been created. The statistic that most knowledge in the world today was created in the last five years.

"So what we need to do as we pursue the vision that we have is defend the freedom that allowed us to be created in the first place, while recognising that we now have the opportunity to actually get close to achieving our mission, which is an incredibly ambitious one."

Source: Al Jazeera