Image: Melanie van Leeuwen via Unsplash

Why are we called ‘WikiTribune’?

You asked — here’s our answer

We’ve had a really interesting response to the name WikiTribune. In some parts of the world, ‘tribune’ is a well-known name element for newspapers, alongside options like Courier, Times, Post, and Daily.

However, in other parts of the world, it’s not so well known — and people aren’t quite sure how to pronounce it, either.

So why did we go for WikiTribune, when we could have picked something a little easier to understand? Well, ‘tribune’ actually has a really interesting history, and one we think fits well with our ethos.

But first, to the obvious: why WikiTribune?

Emphasising our heritage

When evaluating a new idea, people tend to look to the track record of the person or company presenting it, to predict if it’s likely to be a success. If you’re being pitched by Mark Zuckerberg, you’re more likely to believe in his idea than if the same one were presented by a random person in the street — or someone with a reputation for failed projects.

So for us, it’s important to establish upfront that WikiTribune is a project by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia and well-known advocate for internet innovation. We’re not affiliated with Wikipedia, but the wiki world is in our DNA, and that’s important to get across.

‘Wiki’ also highlights the community aspect of the publication: it’s not just a paper, it’s a collaboratively edited paper. A news wiki.

So far, so obvious.

But why Tribune? Outside journalism, it’s a rare word, only really spotted in classicist and academic circles. But it’s also one with a fascinating history of democracy and rights, that we believe embodies everything we’re trying to do.

Over to the Romans

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that ‘tribune’ came from Middle English ‘tribunus’, which meant the head of a tribe. In ancient Rome, a tribune was chosen to represent the best interests of the group.

Known as the tribunes of the plebeians (or plebs: a word for the general public), these officers of the Roman Republic championed the people’s rights to the aristocratic ruling class.

Polybius, a Greek observer of the Roman Republic, wrote that “the tribunes are always obliged to act as the people decree and to pay every attention to their wishes.”

The parallels to the ideals of journalism are clear. Speaking truth to power, representing the voice of the people, and driving out darkness by shining a light on the truth. A free press is the tribune of the people.

At WikiTribune, we’re here to change the public’s perception of journalism. Like our Roman Republican namesake, our mission is to act on your behalf — not to kowtow to the interests of advertisers or investors.

The word ‘tribune’ also connotes a pulpit-style speaking platform. This aligns with our mission of empowering readers to become active participants in the creation and distribution of news. Our pulpit is a platform, and you’re all invited to speak.

Other names we considered

WikiTribune was not named by a glossy branding agency, but by Jimmy. He considered using his own name, in the style of the Huffington Post, but decided “Wales Post” was “likely to be mistaken for a local news site about Cardiff.”

After deciding the ‘wiki’ element was non-negotiable, Jimmy wrestled with the second half of the name for some time. Alternatives he considered included WikiPost and WikiTimes, but neither felt right, and he kept going until he found something that perfectly embodied his vision.

“Of course,” Jimmy comments, “the fact that the domain name was available didn’t hurt, either.”