In the news
More on kidnapping, vandalism commentary, libel suit, and more
The media continued to react this week to the news that Wikipedia had assisted in the media blackout of the kidnapping of reporter David S. Rohde. The story broke two weeks ago in the New York Times (which had organized the blackout), and the Signpost covered Wikipedia's involvement and early responses in the 6 July issue and in the 29 June issue.
On 4 July, another wrinkle for the ethical dimensions of the blackout surfaced: the public editor of the New York Times revealed that:
The Times persuaded news organizations around the world to keep a lid on the story with a simple appeal: The kidnappers had demanded silence. “Possibly by defying them, we would be signing David’s death warrant,” said Bill Keller, the paper’s executive editor.
Seth Finkelstein of guardian.co.uk commented on the unusual success of the media blackout despite the kidnapping having been reported in Italian and Afghan news sources. The article notes that the Wikipedia blackout was aided by the facts that the story hadn't been reported in major news sources and that "nobody with the skills and ability to oppose the removal (whether from noble or ignoble motives) was involved".
Life without chickens
Web cartoonist Ryan North, author of Dinosaur Comics, proposed a solution to the problem of widespread vandalism on Wikipedia: Allow (and encourage) vandals to concentrate their efforts on one article rather than throughout the entire encyclopedia. The article he suggested was chicken. The incident was discussed by Globe and Mail writer Ivor Tossell, who drew connections to the Stephen Colbert elephant incident.
Libel suit filed over Wikipedia edits
Mark Grebner filed a libel suit against one student from Central Michigan University and two students from Michigan State University over edits they had allegedly made to his biographical Wikipedia entry. The edits in question include allegations of homosexuality, sexual abuse, tricking voters into approving a tax increase, and connections to Osama bin Laden. The details of the case were discussed by the Michigan Messenger (a web site belonging to the Center for Independent Media).
Criticism of politician entry
In an article titled Why you should never trust Wikipedia, journalist Paul Mulshine criticized Wikipedia's entry on former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman. Mulshine argued that the article's section on Whitman's governorship included incorrect information regarding her funding of New Jersey's pension system. The reference used to back up the misleading claims is, according to Mulshine, a "propaganda piece". Mulshine concluded the article by encouraging Wikipedia users to read and judge the references rather than simply trust the entries themselves.
Delete the deletionists
Steven Wells, a British journalist and poet, died on June 24, 2009. The following day, the Wikipedia article about him, which had existed since April 2005, was nominated for deletion. Although the article was unanimously kept, the deletion discussion prompted Shane Richmond to question why Wikipedia entries should be deleted at all: "The question Wikipedians should ask when looking at a page is “would this help someone searching for information on this subject”. Nothing else matters. If the entry isn’t notable, who cares? The point is, would someone find it useful?"