4 November 2016

In the media

Washington Post leads the pack in this edition’s roundup of media stories

By Pete Forsyth and Milowent

The Washington Post, the most widely circulated newspaper in the U.S. capital, published several insightful pieces about Wikipedia in the space of a few days.

Robert Gebelhoff’s “Science shows Wikipedia is the best part of the Internet” glows about a “first-of-its-kind” study from Harvard Business School, which found that Wikipedia “reduces ideological segregation and is remarkably good at finding neutrality, even on the most contentious topics”.

Gebelhoff acknowledged that Wikipedia does suffer at times from the “mean-spiritedness seen in the darker corners of the Internet” (like Facebook and Twitter), but focused on the benefits that can accrue when ideologically opposed Wikipedia editors talk through their differences as they construct articles. He observed that while Wikipedia does not strive to be an “experiment in democracy”, it has an “essentially democratic” characteristic. (Oct. 19)

Jeff Guo covered the same study for the Post’s Wonkblog: “Wikipedia is fixing one of the Internet’s biggest flaws” (Oct. 25)

Chris Alcantara of the Washington Post described Wikipedia editors’ efforts to select the best images to depict U.S. presidential nominees.

Chris Alcantara dove into the particulars in yet another piece, “The most challenging job of the 2016 race: Editing the candidates’ Wikipedia pages.” Describing Wikipedia as producing what amounts to an “election guide”, Alcantara summarized Wikipedia editors’ efforts to choose the most appropriate photos to illustrate articles on U.S. presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and presented graphics summarizing the frequency of edits to a number of presidential candidates’ Wikipedia biographies, in several election cycles. The article featured interviews with several Wikipedia editors.

These stories from the Post add to the paper’s wide variety of Wikipedia-related coverage in the last year. In December 2015, reporter Caitlin Dewey published “Wikipedia has a ton of money. So why is it begging you to donate yours?”, which was followed up by stories in Germany, England, Italy, and elsewhere. The next month, it ran Wikipedia historian Andrew Lih’s op-ed for Wikipedia’s 15th birthday, “Wikipedia just turned 15 years old. Will it survive 15 more?” And, as we reported in last week’s In the media, columnist Gene Weingarten recently wrote about his frustrations in trying to update the photo on his own Wikipedia biography. (Oct. 27) PF

In brief

This is not Wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia is not Wikileaks: Democratic member of Congress Sheila Jackson Lee mistakenly blamed Wikipedia instead of WikiLeaks for the recent release of emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign. The two organizations are completely unrelated, as one can see from reading the WikiLeaks article. Just a regular slip of the tongue, it appears. (Oct. 22)
  • Area politician article vandalized: Unlike the Hillary Clinton article, where vandalism was quickly reverted, a New York state legislator’s article was vandalized to say he “has been on the public dole for more than three decades”, and this edit was not caught for almost three days, as reported by local media. (See diff.) The article appears to average only 50 views per day, so the delay in being caught, though regrettable, does not seem surprising. (Oct 22).
  • Paid editing to go: The Register spotted a car in London with full-coverage advertising for paid BLP reputation services. (Oct 24)
  • Anonymous edits from political staffers: In Australia, “The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has ordered the heads of the Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Health, Agriculture and Parliamentary Services departments to urgently investigate possible breaches of government IT policy and report back in a week.” An investigation was launched after discovery that public servants and staffers had made “tens of thousands” of Wikipedia edits. Some were mildly amusing or otherwise innocuous, but others were offensive and potentially embarrassing to public officials. (Oct. 26)

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In this issue: 4 November 2016

Originally published at en.wikipedia.org on November 5, 2016.