Last year at the annual Dalton Camp Lecture, Sue Gardner, the executive director of Wikimedia, took to the stage to talk about the strange world of the new media. I was especially interested to hear how she would defend the use of Wikipedia as a credible source of information. When she inevitably got to that point in her lecture she started with a short anecdote which ended with her saying “yeah Wikipedia has mistakes, so does the New York Times, so does the BBC, so does CNN, so does the CBC.”
She went on to say that in the new media landscape everyone would get the credibility they deserved. People would separate the good from the bad on their own. She also hinted at a future change in the distinction of what really is credible; news organizations would no longer be the only trusted source of information.
She presented a decent case to defend Wikipedia’s credibility, making a point to emphasize how quickly they can eliminate false information from a page. But I wasn’t fully convinced. The problem with it is still (as we were always warned by teachers and professors) that Wikipedia users can edit the articles on the site, which makes it vulnerable to vandalism. No matter how fast Wikipedia’s editors can correct vandalized articles (believe me, it’s fast), they aren’t always fast enough to stop something like this from happening. For the time being at least, one way we can all determine an online news organization’s credibility is if their journalists check facts on Wikipedia. Don’t get me wrong, I check for plenty of things on Wikipedia, but I never use it to check facts for articles I’m writing. It’s not because I think Wikipedia has bad intentions, I actually think the opposite, it’s a huge collection of free information, which is great. I would just rather not get embarrassed by some internet troll who got bored and vandalized some comedian’s Wiki page.