The Al-Hayat Media Center, the propaganda arm of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, released its eighth propaganda video starring British photojournalist John Cantlie, who was abducted in Syria in 2012. (A transcript is available from the SITE Intelligence Group.) While the first six videos feature Cantlie in orange prison garb speaking behind a table, the two newest videos have him dressed in street clothes playing the role of a Western-style journalist exploring cities under ISIL control. In the latest video, Cantlie shows viewers parts of Mosul; he navigates the roadways in an automobile, visits a marketplace and a hospital, and even drives a police motorcycle. His narration counters reports in Western media about the difficulties of life in Mosul and the lack of goods and electricity. The video claims that Mosul is a safe and prosperous place, well-policed and low in crime, with the only ones suffering being children with "psychiatric problems" as the result of Western bombing raids. Cantlie quotes from the Wikipedia article on Mosul: "If you look in Wikipedia under the entry of Mosul, it says that on November 10, 2004, the policemen not killed in the fighting fled the city, leaving Mosul without any police force for about a month." By way of contrast, the video claims that ISIL's police force has a "firm presence" in Mosul despite having little to do due to the lack of crime.
Cantlie and American journalist James Foley were abducted outside an Internet cafe in Syria. Foley was repeatedly beaten and tortured in captivity before being beheaded on camera in a video uploaded to YouTube in August 2014. Last year ISIL also beheaded perhaps hundreds of other journalists, aid workers, enemy soldiers, and other humans.
The Independentcomplains (January 5) that Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 is not discussed more prominently in the articles for AirAsia and Indonesia AirAsia and that information about the crash and another incident is absent or being removed. Flight 8501 disappeared on December 28 and wreckage was found in the Karimata Strait two days later. On December 30, Indonesia AirAsia Flight 272 overshot the runway at Kalibo International Airport, forcing an evacuation of passengers via emergency slides. AirAsia owns 49 percent of Indonesia AirAsia and they share a logo, but a number of editors on the AirAsia article consider the two carriers to be entirely different airlines and have removed the information, noting that it does not comply in an unspecified way with Wikipedia:WikiProject Airlines. While Flight 8501 has its own article, the crash is only mentioned in a single sentence near the bottom of the Indonesia AirAsia article. The Independent notes "The page does feature flattering information on the airline's safety record — including the fact that it is commended by the Indonesia Civil Aviation Authority for its safety — and its domination of the local market."
Article errors reveal US political approaches to Wikipedia editing
Al Jazeera Americareports (January 6) that the Wikipedia article United States congressional delegations from Kentucky incorrectly identified Senate Majority LeaderMitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul as belonging to the Democratic Party instead of the Republican Party in picture captions. The almost certainly inadvertent errors were introduced when an editor added a gallery of photographs to the top of the article on December 21 and remained until they were corrected following the publication of the Al Jazeera story. The story quoted a pair of digital campaign consultants, one of whom, Karl Frisch, placed the blame squarely on "the digital teams of McConnell and Paul" for not catching and correcting the mistakes, even after the Al Jazeera author sent a mocking Tweet on December 30 to the Senators' official Twitter accounts. Frisch said "If you don’t know how to get something corrected on Wikipedia for your boss and you're a digital campaign consultant in 2015, you might as well quit." Frisch said that he has brought sources to the attention of Wikipedia editors to get changes made, while another strategist, Vincent Harris, said that he has "accounts that we manage that are active in the [Wikipedia] community that we make changes with" frequently.
Rhode Island Governor numbering debate
The Providence Journaldiscusses (January 2) the question of how the office of Governor of the US state of Rhode Island should be numbered. New governor Gina Raimondo, who was elected in November 2014 and assumed office on January 6, refers to herself the 75th Governor, following the example of the outgoing governor, Lincoln Chafee, who called himself the 74th Governor. The Journal asked Chafee's Communications Director, Faye Zuckerman, about the numbering and she referred the paper to the Wikipedia article List of Governors of Rhode Island.
Tom Evans, State Librarian of Rhode Island, took issue with Wikipedia's numbering. Evans told the Journal that "They've counted two people who never adopted the title of governor." Henry Smith was President of the Rhode Island Senate in 1805 when he assumed the office following the deaths of Lieutenant Governor Paul Mumford and Governor Arthur Fenner. Isaac Wilbour was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1806, but because no gubernatorial candidate received a majority vote that year, Wilbour served as Governor instead. The list and the Wikipedia articles for Smith and Wilbour do not include inline citations related to this issue, but sources such as The Encyclopedia of Rhode Island refer to them as Acting Governors.
The list's numbering includes Governors who served more than one non-consecutive term as separate Governors, such as James Fenner, who is counted as the 7th, 11th, and 17th Governor. Evans objected to this as "confusing".
For his numbering, Evans used the two governing documents used by Rhode Island's government for most of its history. Eliminating Smith, Wilbour, and duplicate office holders, he counts 57 Governors starting from the 1842 Constitution of Rhode Island and 91 Governors starting from the 1663 Royal Charter.
Rhetorical questions: On January 8, the Chicago Bears announced that Ryan Pace was hired as their new general manager. Sports Illustratedreported that an hour later, a Wikipedia article was created that announced that fact and wondered "Seriously, how the hell did this guy not have a Wikipedia Page until now???". Another editor removed the question with the next edit.
Speedy editing: TechRepublicdiscusses (January 7) a December 29 Wikimedia Foundation blog post by software engineer Ori Livneh (Ori.livneh) about how Wikipedia editing has been improved by faster page loads and significantly decreased time to save pages, due to the adoption of HipHop Virtual Machine. Software engineer Brett Simmers also describes his work with the Foundation implementing HHVM on the HHVM blog (January 6). (G)
Read along at home: Private Eye reports ("Media News", December 20, p. 15) that the narration for the BBC Radio 2 documentary Don't Fight It, Feel It: The Life of Sam Cooke was copied from the Wikipedia article Sam Cooke. They wrote "For a true multimedia experience, [listeners] may also like to open the Wikipedia entry for Sam Cooke and read along with presenter Candi Staton, whose narration throughout the hour-long programme, which was produced by Danny O'Connor for Document Media, is very nearly word-for-word identical to the Wikipedia text." (S)