Monday, December 05, 2005

Mr. Seigenthaler, on the grassy knoll, with a rifle.

The Wikipedia encyclopedia experiment has run into a wee bit of a credibility problem all of a sudden. The on line, constantly updating encyclopedia, which asks internet users to become on line historians has discovered that not everyone is interested in the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

John Seigenthaler, a well known American journalist and a former official in the Robert Kennedy camp, found that his biography on Wikipedia offered up some rather disturbing facts that were really more in the realm of fiction. In an on line posting to the Wikipedia website, an on line contributor had suggested that Seigenthaler had been a suspect in both the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and his brother, President John F. Kennedy.

Seigenthaler, who is a founding editorial director of USA Today was outraged at those accusations and other factual errors that he found in the biography of his career. Included in the bogus information files for the bio, were suggestions of support for Nazism and of having lived in the Soviet Union. Points which Seigenthaler says made it into Wikipedia due to loose controls over information input and a shoddy sense of editing by those in charge of the site.
His comments point out a problem with the living encylopedia idea, which depends on hundreds of volunteers to make contributions, leaving the project ripe for abuse and even worse a forum for some serious character assassination.

Wikipedia's founder a fellow by the name of Jimmy Wales, says that all contributors will now be required to register on line before they create an entry. However, those that are logging on to modify an existing article will still be able to log on without registering , which is hardly the thing of comprehensive quality control.

The Wikipedia project is an interesting approach to history archiving, but ultimately will only be as good as the respect one has for the finished product. If it becomes nothing but a dumping ground for grudges, mischief and libelous statements, then it's credibility will diminish to that of a game of we've got a secret.

Once again the old saying "don't believe everything that you read" holds a serious amount of truth to it. Just ask Mr. Seigenthaler and his tattered reputation.

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