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Business - Written by on Thursday, July 31, 2008 17:08 - 3 Comments

Wikipedia: More Reliable and Balanced than the News?

Sarah Lai Stirland over at Wired’s ThreatLevel has a great post today about a fight that recently occurred amongst Wikipedia editors over whether the entry for John Edwards should include information about his alleged love affair.

The National Enquirer claims that Edwards fathered an illegitimate child with his web video producer, but without any substantive evidence to back it up, it seems that none of the US networks (except truth-crusader Fox News) have covered the story.

The Wikipedia entry on Edwards was locked after a 37,000-word debate concluded that the scandal, and the sources that reported on it, did not meet Wikipedia’s standards of reliability. Yesterday, however, users voted to unlock the article and include a compromise statement that references the scandal, but only in regards to its influence on Edwards’ chances for the vice presidency.

To me this illustrates how Wikipedia and social media have the potential to provide far more reliable and balanced sources of information than traditional media.

An ongoing criticism of Wikipedia is that it is unreliable. You just can’t trust it. Who knows where that information is coming from. Well call me crazy, but this story shows that Wikipedia is applying a higher standard of reliability than the US’s most-watched cable news network (not that that’s saying much).

On the other hand, Wikipedia struggles with the issue of censorship and bias. You just can’t trust Wikipedia because its edited by a bunch of conservatives/liberals/people-I-don’t-agree-with. They aren’t telling the whole story. Of course that argument can be made with the mainstream media as well. But when a major network or newspaper is biased or commits censorship, people complain and/or go somewhere else for their news, they don’t solve the problem. In this case, Wikipedians thoughtfully discussed the issue, reached a compromise, voted democratically, and solved (or at least moved towards a solution for) the problem.

In a media environment that seems increasingly unconcerned with factuality, biased, and obsessed with scandal, Wikipedia seems so … mature!



3 Comments

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Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Wikipedia: Living History for the Rest of Time?
Aug 2, 2008 18:21

[...] argument goes like this: as Will argued a few days ago, Wikipedia, by virtue of it’s nature, could be more fair and balanced than any news network. [...]

ChemSpiderMan
Aug 3, 2008 21:12

I cannot comment on the overall quality of Wikipedia but have a lot of experience regarding the “Chemistry” aspects on Wikipedia. I have been working with the WP:Chem team for a few months to clean up the quality of records associated with chemical structures on WP (http://www.chemconnector.com/chemunicating/dedicating-christmas-time-to-the-cause-of-curating-wikipedia.html). By the time we are done we will have checked and edited all structure-based records on WIkipedia. In parallel the ChemSpider project is allowing crowdsourced curation and expansion of a database of over 23.5 million chemical compounds (www.chemspider.com) and is an example of chemists coming together to form a community.

Swan: Sources
Dec 4, 2008 13:15

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