This Made Me Chuckle Today
The whole endless debate over Wikipedia and the so-called democratization of information has seemed more than a bit tiresome to me over the years. The extreme edges of both camps seem about equally clueless to me--both the critics who seize on every Wikipedia shortcoming to make a larger (brainless) critique that nothing found anywhere online can be trusted, and the hard-core Wikipedia defenders who try to argue that a mob can somehow cobble together information that's every bit as dependable as that which is compiled by rigorous, learned and professional editors and subject specialists. I think the truth lies somewhere in between.
Yet another log got thrown on that endless raging debate with the publication of this front-page piece in today's Sunday New York Times. Stop the presses: companies and institutions with an interest in various bits of information have themselves gone in and changed many entries. That this should even be news speaks to the Wikipedia community's wishful naivete: how shocking that corporate and other moneyed interests, when given the chance, would try to look after their interests in this way, just like they do everywhere else.
But in addition to those weighty issues, there were a couple of details embedded in the story that really made me chuckle. "Last year, someone using a computer at the Washington Post Company changed the name of the owner of a free local paper, The Washington Examiner, from Philip Anschutz to Charles Manson...And The New York Times Company is among those whose employees have made, among hundreds of innocuous changes, a handful of questionable edits. A change to the page on President Bush, for instance, repeated the word 'jerk' 12 times. And in the entry for Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, the word 'pianist' was changed to 'penis.'”
Who says old-fashioned newspaper hijinx died along with the migration from hot type?