[78-L] Wikipedia

Harold Aherne leotolstoy_75 at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 5 13:18:26 PST 2013

The Wikipedia sword cuts several ways. On the one hand, it allows unprecedented opportunities to correct data that published sources have gotten wrong (or never covered at all) for years. On the other hand, that same incorrect data is sometimes used to undermine verifiable, accurate information posted on Wikipedia. I found the correct birth year for a certain silent film actor in the 1881 Census of Canada, verified his identity through other genealogical documents and changed it in the Wikipedia article with a citation. Since 99.9% of published sources give the wrong information, the year got changed back to the wrong one (although my citation for the correct one wasn't deleted!). 
Who wins in this case? The independent researcher who can back up his claims with sources that weren't available until recent decades, or the better-known (but still wrong) books published earlier? 
None of this is to say that Wikipedia should be the first place a researcher or journalist looks. It's not, and anyway a Wikipedia article is only a starting point for further research. But it also offers possibilities far beyond the scope of most previous encyclopaedic efforts.

--- On Tue, 3/5/13, David Lennick <dlennick at sympatico.ca> wrote:

From: David Lennick <dlennick at sympatico.ca>
Subject: Re: [78-L] Wikipedia
To: "78-L Mail List" <78-l at klickitat.78online.com>
Date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 2:55 PM

By the way, in case you want proof of how much it's used, reliably or not, the 
other day I looked up the movie "The Apartment" to get the cast list, having 
just watched it on TCM. The back story presented on television by Ben 
Mankiewicz was taken almost entirely from Wikipedia. And the cast list 
contained at least one glaring error. Joyce Jameson played the Marilyn Monroe 
lookalike, not "blonde in the bar". IMDB credits her as "the blonde".

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