Obscure Box

Thoughts from inside the obscure box


April 9, 2008

Journalists and Wikipedia

Posted by : Michael Lund
Filed under : Internet, Media, Online

Student journalists continue to ask why they should not use Wikipedia as a credible source for their stories. For some time I've been struggling to best answer this question.

Others have already done research to show how some Wikipedia entries contain inaccuracies, and still the student journalists want to use Wikipedia as a source. Often as a sole source.

The best answer I could previously come up with was to warn the student journalists against ever appearing in an Editor's office forced to defend their journalism against a formal complaint, when all they could cite as a source was Wikipedia. The next office they would visit would probably be the unemployment office.

That didn't seem to deter them either.

In frustration I turned to Wikipedia and found the answer there. It was obvious when you think about it. Wikipedia's own Disclaimer at the bottom of each page should be enough to deter any journalist.

The headline alone is enough to scare:

WIKIPEDIA MAKES NO GUARANTEE OF VALIDITY

Read on, and the article should send shivers down the spine of any student journalist seeking to produce credible work and protect their own reputation.

Delve further to read Wikipedia's Risk disclaimer and it gets even worse.

USE WIKIPEDIA AT YOUR OWN RISK

PLEASE BE AWARE THAT ANY INFORMATION YOU MAY FIND IN WIKIPEDIA MAY BE INACCURATE, MISLEADING, DANGEROUS OR ILLEGAL.

It goes on:

Double-check information with independent sources.

So if a student journalist - of any journalist for that matter - wants to know why they should not use Wikipedia as a credible source, then my advice from now on, is to check Wikipedia.


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All thoughts and comments here are the honestly held personal opinion of Michael Lund and are based on the information available at the time of publication.

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