Friday, May 08, 2009

Wiki-user to Journalists: "PWN'D"

From the Agence France Presse:

DUBLIN (AFP) - An Irish student's fake quote on the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia has been used in newspaper obituaries around the world, the Irish Times reported.

The quote was attributed to French composer Maurice Jarre who died in March.

Shane Fitzgerald, 22, a final-year student studying sociology and economics at University College Dublin, told the newspaper he placed the quote on the website as an experiment when doing research on globalisation.
Now.... I don't know about you, but I kinda got the whole "don't-trust-Wikipedia" meme when I was just a lowly student in journalism, oh so many years ago. I always thought everyone knew, "Don't use Wikipedia!"

Guess not.

What's more troubling is how this reflects on our already shaky industry. "Not good" are two words that come to mind. This tech blog summed it up another way:
A key part of the argument for maintaining traditional journalism is that its trained reporters can perform research and investigations that the untrained masses can't, and the content they produce is run by editors and fact-checkers. The revelation that their research is often no more sophisticated than an average Web surfer's, and that the fact checking can be nonexistent, really doesn't help that argument much.
"Doesn't help that argument much"? Heck, it almost shoots it into the ground. Corrections be damned, we're supposed to get it right. And I can't help but wonder how an unchecked wiki quote could make it past the copy desk and into print. Was it a lowly intern obit writer who didn't know better? A seasoned obit writer who, regretfully, isn't as seasoned in technology? Or just another reporter who felt no need to stay at work late to check his facts?

Being that the quote showed up in more than one place, I suppose it's anyone's guess.

But I know one thing for sure -- thank God for Kee Malesky, the veteran NPR librarian who has no qualms about shouting from the top of the building...




Posted by Veronica Marché at 6:54 PM | link

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