This is great, particularly as no other mass audience, community-created news site, with the aim of neutrality, exists, to my knowledge.
My main concern about Wikinews is that the wiki process, by itself, isn’t fast moving enough to ensure the accuracy or neutrality of stories posted on the site. Whereas, over time, Wikipedia articles have the rough edges smoothed by the process of collaborative editing, news items are only seen by a substantial audience for a short period of time. So, inaccurate, or skewed, items could be influential before they are corrected.
At first, Wikinews will either have to rely on other news sources, to provide its stories, or restrict its output to that which can be directly experienced by its contributors. To me, both scenarios present limitations to how useful the wiki process will be. In the first instance, wiki editors will have to trust that other news sources are accurate and neutral. In the second, there won’t be enough people who have had direct experience, of most news stories, for the wiki editing process to result in something that is neutral; which is perhaps why Indymedia‘s solidly left-wing stance has worked for its audience.
On a slightly more philosophical note, I wonder if Wikinews will challenge the idea of news as fact. If it gains a significant audience, and stays around for a few years, the accuracy of its archive will diminish. The ability to revise old news could be Wikinews’ major failing. It would, for example, be very easy to go through old news items and edit someone out of them. While, with Wikipedia, there is enough interest in most items for them to maintain some debate, and relatively frequent editing, who will bother to check that old news isn’t being fiddled with? Even if no one does mis-edit older news, could the very possibility devalue the archive?
I’m sure Wikimedia will come up with interesting solutions, and accommodations, to any problems Wikinews may face. I look forward to seeing how it grows, and also to contributing to it. A Wired News article about Wikinews suggests that it will counter the profits-driven nature of most American news. The BBC may get it wrong some times but man, I’m so grateful we have it.