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Sham editing at Wikipedia

The Baltimore Sun

Connoisseurs of nonsense will enjoy the latest example of fatuity at Wikipedia.* Philip Roth discovers that a Wikipedia entry on his novel The Human Stain says that the principal character is based on the late Anatole Broyard. This is not so, and Mr. Roth attempted to get Wikipedia to correct the error. Here is his account of what happened, part of a 2,700-word article in The New Yorker:

"When, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the 'English Wikipedia Administrator'—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: 'I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,' writes the Wikipedia Administrator—but we require secondary sources.' "

Yes, you read that. Philip Roth is not a sufficient authority on his own work to be trusted by Wikipedia.
Subsequently, Wikipedia altered the entry. Apparently, the article by Philip Roth in The New Yorker was an adequate secondary source.Years ago, Wikipedia, which has a brief entry on me, published that I was the John McIntyre who operates the blog Real Clear Politics. This is not so, by my say-so was inadequate, and another person had to go to some trouble to get Wikipedia to correct the entry. (It may be wrong again, for all I know; I don't go there.)In addition to the numerous errors introduced by ignorant or careless contributors, it is widely known that some public figures employ interns or staff members to monitor their Wikipedia entries to edit out unfavorable information.

I remain convinced that Wikipedia's confidence in its self-correction mechanism is an illusion, that the editing it does is inadequate, and that the outright errors and constant manipulation of entries by interested parties make it an unreliable reference. I advise copy editors not to consult it, and I tell me students every semester to stay away from it. Yeah, that's gonna happen.


*My lack of enthusiasm for Wikipedia has been documented here and here and here. Grant Barrett weighs in to confirm in the third post.


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