NY Times Magazine Takes A Neutral Point Of View On Wikipedia

from the not-so-bad dept

Over the years, there have been tons of articles about Wikipedia — some more ridiculous than others. The haters of Wikipedia are pretty common, though, as you read what they have to say it often becomes clear that they don’t actually understand Wikipedia and believe it’s something it’s not. However, the NY Times Magazine this past weekend has a more interesting — and, frankly, “neutral” — article on Wikipedia that looks more at the people who keep Wikipedia going as well as Wikipedia’s impact on news coverage. It notes that Wikipedia is often much better than offshoot Wikinews when it comes to keeping up with breaking news. However, what’s most interesting is hearing the various quotes from the various volunteers who keep Wikipedia going. Despite what you may have read from various Wikipedia critics, the folks who devote so much time to Wikipedia take it, and its principles of neutrality, incredibly seriously. While there may be nothing really new in the article, it’s one of the first that I’ve seen that gives a more reasonable picture of how Wikipedia’s biggest supporters view the site — and it works quite well as a response to people who insist that Wikipedia couldn’t possibly be trustworthy (or that it somehow is an affront to “experts” — when that’s not the case at all).

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Comments on “NY Times Magazine Takes A Neutral Point Of View On Wikipedia”

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charlie potatoes (profile) says:


As a freelance writer who occasionally writes the odd collegy essay for hire, I see professor after professor forbid the student to use this online site. What a pompous load of horse manure. I, and I assume most college students, are capable of separating the wheat from the straw. Irrespective of what the professor says, my first visit is to wikipedia, where I often find valuable links and general information. I am precluded from citing it much of the time, but my job would be more difficult without at least looking over what it has to say. How arrogant of these professors. They assume thta their students can’t, or won’t, verify whatever they find there.

ACM says:

Everybody chill

I’m a college newspaper editor and happen to love Wikipedia, so much so that I devoted a column to it last semester. I grabbed the inevitable quote from a wary professor, blah blah. The bottom line is that it’s a wonderful starting point but that an academic just shouldn’t cite Wikipedia itself; after all, it’s Wiki policy to give citations for facts in articles, so what use can come from citing Wikipedia instead of the original, authoritative source?

T.J.’s trust in Wikipedia as a source of “credibility” is heartwarming but strikes me as odd. To say that Wikipedia constantly does anything is to err, because there is no entity called Wikipedia; it’s just a grab bag of John Q. Publics who feel like editing at the time. T.J. is quite obviously interesting in fighting the good fight, which is really cute and all, but the sad irony is that by not listing the “major media corporation ‘news’ sites” that fail to live up to his journalistic standards, he’s made the same mistake he’s so righteously wailing about. All it takes is one ne’er-do-well to delete a link, and bam — so much for constantly linking its sources, T.J.

I think that from an academic standpoint Wikipedia was engineered to be used precisely the way in which I and Charlie Potatoes use it, which is ground zero for some vital information and a sort of launchpad into more detailed (and acceptable) sources. As long as the editors of a Wiki article provide citations of journal articles or books or encyclopedias, who really needs to cite Wikipedia? The romance, naturally, of a 3-page bibliography is all but ruined with but one MLA-formatted hat-tip to ole Wiki.

bonelyfish says:

In my own experience, wikipedia is so useful and intuitive that a quarter of the classes become meaningless and there is even saved time I have to spend in the (online) library filtering out obscure journals for piecemeal facts. BTW, if talking about facts, I haven’t seen a professor more knowledgable/neutral/error-free than wikipedia!

Comicfan says:


While I am no editor, I am always looking up a wealth of info and I always check more than one source no matter where I go. It’s simply good practice. I will admit, Wikipedia has been dead on and I can’t recall a case where it hasn’t for what I’ve looked up, not saying it can’t or hasn’t happened, just not to me. If professors or anyone says, don’t go to WP, well then we can say the same on the WHOLE www. It’s made up from many people and anyone knows not everything you read on the internet is true, no matter what site you visit. Sure there is a lot of credible sources, but even books can prove wrong in any point in time. For one, I wonder if many know that WP has certain people that can edit it. Yes, it can be anyone but you have to be approved. This seems never to surface in most articles, they act as if your Aunt Petunia is stopping by, changing a definition and leaving. No no no, Aunt Petunia has to be approved first. However, I never liked Aunt Petunia, don’t even know her, but you get the point.

Music Man says:

It works...kinda

Wikipedia is a fantastic resource. As a college student going into their jr. year i find that i hold the .pedia as a close friend. Largely yes it is possible to pick out the B.S. from potential fact. The only issue with the site is that it is public edited.

As ACM stated, Wikipedia makes a great basis to start from, if you do not have a good idea on a topic. Though a few articles may be fouled by missing citations, and misinformation. In large part, wiki is good for a general idea. Much like spark notes is to middle schoolers and high schoolers. Though they dont use it as a starting point.

anonimous (user link) says:

tax troubles

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