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Wikipedia praised for disaster news coverage, scolded for left-wing bias; brief news
Virginia Earthquake: Wikipedia as a news source revisited
Although Wikipedia explicitly identifies itself as not a source of news, it is often updated rapidly to reflect current events (for example, its coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake received a favourable writeup from traditional news media). As a result, Wikipedia articles were appearing on the front page of news aggregation service Google News as early as June 2009, and often receive large page view spikes when news breaks. This was also the case on Tuesday, with an article on the 2011 Virginia earthquake springing up within minutes of the event, and with Hurricane Irene, whose article grew from nothing to over 100kB as the hurricane approached the city of New York in the latter half of the week.
Such rapid growth attracted its own media attention. The Washington Post dedicated a story to the English Wikipedia's article on the Virginia earthquake, noting that "Wikipedians needed just eight minutes to cooly consign the '2011 Virginia earthquake' to history". The Post's coverage was positive, appearing to praise the encyclopedic, historical tone of the coverage, the quick reversion of vandalism to the article, and the merging of another article on the same event. Online news site The Daily Dot looked instead at the Hurricane Irene article, including favourable quotations from editors to the page who explained the difficulties of editing such a popular article.
Wikinews also has articles on the events: Tropical Storm Irene passes over New York and Magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia felt up and down U.S. east coast. In addition to specific coverage of the Wikipedia articles, a number of news organisations quoted Wikipedia articles for facts and figures on the events and similar ones from history.
Wikipedia's endemic left-wing bias?
Conservative commentator Glenn Beck (above) and Marxist revolutionary Ché Guevara (below) have both had their articles given a "leftist" slant, contends writer David Swindle.
Pulling no punches, David Swindle kicked off a series of articles for FrontPageMag, a conservative website based in California, that analyses the political slant of Wikipedia, proposing to show "How the left conquered Wikipedia". He does this firstly by comparing specific articles from opposite sides of the US political spectrum, and showing how in each pairing the "liberal" personality or organisation receives a more favourable write-up (he does not appear, however, to have attempted a systematic analysis of all pages from each side). In articles that appear well-referenced, he also notes the low percentage of sources used in these articles that he would characterise as "conservative", compared with the relatively high percentage of "liberal" sources. Swindle adds that articles on "leftists" may include controversy, but only where the subject has apologised for his or her error, thus "transforming a failing into a chance to show the subject's humanity".
After a brief interlude discussing the vulnerability of Wikipedia to high-profile BLP-attacks and the real life damage they may cause, Swindle returns to his central thesis of a liberal bias in Wikipedia, attributing it to the characteristics of the average Wikipedia editor (whom he describes as "alone and apparently without a meaningful, fulfilling career"). "Unfortunately, Wikipedia, because of its decision to create an elite group of 'information specialists', has picked its side in [political battles] and is now fighting on the front lines", writes Swindle. As for future essays, the commentator advises that he will demonstrate how "the bias in entries for persons no longer living and historical subjects is less marked and, when present, more subtle".
This is not the first time Wikipedia has been accused of having a liberal bias, the issue has been raised most notably by Andrew Schlafly who asserted that "Wikipedia is six times more liberal than the American public" and started his own website Conservapedia to be a conservative alternative. Last year, FrontPageMag already described Wikipedia as "an Islamist hornet’s nest" (Signpost coverage: "Wikipedia accused of 'Islamofascist dark side'"), and had one author explain her negative experiences while editing Wikipedia by the hypothesis that "Wiki has an Israel problem. Wiki has a Jewish problem" (Signpost coverage: "Wikipedia downplaying the New York Times' anti-semitism?").
- Pravda Online, an online news service founded by former editors of the now defunct Soviet newspaper of the same name, weighed in on the imminent demise of Wikipedia. The website compared its importance to that of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia for previous generations, and gloomily asserting that "Most likely, the encyclopedia is no longer the medium for the people." By contrast to the English Wikipedia, the Russian Wikipedia has seen very stable editor numbers over the last two years, with a slight growth in that period reported.
- The British Library Editathon, held in June (see previous Signpost coverage), was reported in The New Yorker ("Nerd Out", currently paywalled).
- The day-long scavenger hunt Wikipedia Takes Montreal, held on August 28, was highlighted in The Canadian Press and on the blog of Tourism Montreal.
- In the first of a series of posts looking at the use of Wikipedia for marketing, SocialFresh asked "Wikipedia for marketing, should your business use it?". Reassuringly, the article starts off by saying that small business owners should not try to use Wikipedia for marketing purposes; it then continues with an accurate exploration of the English Wikipedia's notability requirements.
- XXL, a magazine devoted to "hip-hop on a higher level", revealed the existence of a "Wikipedia Rap" (download) by impresario Skyzoo in the final installment of his The Penny Freestyle series. Of course, in doing so he builds on a Wikimedian tradition of writing and rewriting songs to describe the daily life of contributors; existing hip-hop songs include "Bold I Be" by User:Scartol.