According to experts, internet is a great source but informations are often erroneous. Take the case of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is already well known as the free online encyclopedia but it is not yet reliable enough to use as a source by the newsrooms across the globe. According to Wikipedia homepage, Wikipedia is a wiki, meaning that anyone can edit any unprotected page and improve articles immediately for all readers. You do not need to register to do this. Anyone who has edited is known as a “Wikipedian”. It means that anyone can edit and add in-formations which may be incorrect and not up to the mark. Wikipedia contributors are amateur and not experts in their respective fields. Here excerpts from an article by Donna Shaw published in American Journalism Review (AJR) with her permission.
It’s unclear if many newsrooms have formal policies banning Wikipedia attribution in their stories, but many have informal ones. At the Philadelphia Inquirer, which cited Wikipedia in an article about the death of television personality Tom Snyder last July, Managing Editor Mike Leary recently sent an e-mail to staff members reminding them they are never to use Wikipedia “to verify facts or to augment information in a story.” A news database search indicates that “according to Wikipedia” mentions are few and far between in U.S. papers, and are found most frequently in opinion columns, letters to the editor and feature stories. They also turn up occasionally in graphics and information boxes.
Indeed, the primary knock against Wikipedia is that its authors and editors are also its users — an unpaid, partially anonymous army, some of whom insert jokes, exaggeration and even outright lies in their material. About one-fifth of the editing is done by anonymous users, but a tight-knit community of 600 to 1,000 volunteers does the bulk of the work, according to Wikipedia co founder Jimmy Wales. Members of this group can delete material or, in extreme cases, even lock particularly outrageous entries while they are massaged.
No one is more aware of such pitfalls than the leadership of Wikipedia, whose online disclaimer reminds users that “anyone with an Internet connection” can alter the content and cautions, “please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by people with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information.” An even more blunt assessment appears in the encyclopedia’s “Ten things you may not know about Wikipedia” posting: “We do not expect you to trust us. It is in the nature of an ever-changing work like Wikipedia that, while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish.” It also reminds users not to use Wikipedia as a primary source or for making “critical decisions.”
Still, many if not most in the academic community think that Wikipedia, if used at all, should be no more than a secondary source, and they frequently tell their students as much. For Cornell University professor Ross Brann, that position was reinforced in early 2007, after the outing of a salaried Wikipedia employee and editor who called himself “Essjay” and claimed to be a tenured professor with doctorates in theology and canon law. Turns out he had seriously padded his résumé: The New Yorker discovered after interviewing Essjay that he was actually a 24-year-old community college dropout. To Brann, a professor of Islamic studies and director of graduate studies for the Department of Near Eastern Studies, the incident confirmed that Wikipedia could not be trusted as a primary source.
The Los Angeles Times is one of many newspapers that have allowed an occasional “according to Wikipedia” in their pages in the last several months. One was in a commentary piece about Barack Obama; another appeared in a staff-written story about a professional “man in the street” who managed to be interviewed repeatedly. The reference in the latter story drew rapid fire on testycopyeditors.org, with comments including “Shame on the Los Angeles Times” and “No, no, a thousand times no.”
Such caution is understandable, as for all its enticements, Wikipedia is maddeningly uneven. It can be impressive in one entry (the one on the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal includes 138 end notes, 18 references and seven external links) and sloppy in another (it misspells the name of AJR’s editor). Its topics range from the weighty (the Darfur conflict) to the inconsequential (a list of all episodes of the TV series “Canada’s Worst Handyman”). Its talk pages can include sophisticated discussions of whether fluorescent light bulbs will cause significant mercury pollution or silly minutiae like the real birth date of Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua. Some of its commentary is remarkable but some contributors are comically dense, like the person who demanded proof that 18th-century satirist Jonathan Swift wasn’t serious when he wrote that landlords should eat the children of their impoverished Irish tenants.
…….Erick Schmidt, editor of the University Daily Kansan, says he doesn’t rely much on Wikipedia, in part because his reporters write mostly about college and community issues. Plus, “we’re taught to be cautious of things and skeptical,” he says. Schmidt rejects the notion that college students uncritically accept Wikipedia because they are infatuated with all things Internet. “We don’t want to move things to technology because we think it’s cool or paper is lame,” he says. “But honestly, we are pressed for time, and if technology speeds things up.. that’s why we’re being drawn to it.”
In India, newsrooms should adopt clear policies to use Wikipedia as a primary source. They should follow the journalism mantra that if your mother says she loves you, check it out. Check and recheck everything before use every Wikipedia posting.
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