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The Irony: Reuters Slams Wikipedia's Credibility, Issues Own Correction

The most classic part of this whole Wikipedia-Ken Lay-Reuters story (as described here and here) is the fact that the original Reuters story, which said Lay’s death “underscored the challenges facing online encyclopaedia Wikipedia,” contained a major error. As posted on the story:

Ken Lay’s death prompts confusion on Wikipedia

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The death of former Enron Corp. chief Ken Lay on Wednesday underscored the challenges facing online encyclopaedia Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/), which as the news was breaking offered a variety of causes for his death.

Lay, 64, died of an apparent heart attack, according to a pastor at the Lay family’s church in Houston. It was six weeks after a jury found him guilty of fraud in one of the biggest corporate scandals in U.S. history. A family spokeswoman said that Lay passed away early on Wednesday morning in Aspen.

Now that’s all fine and dandy, but it seems like Ken Lay’s death prompted confusion at Reuters, also. Here’s the correction:

Corrects and recasts paragraph two to show that a spokeswoman for the Lay family did not give the cause of Lay’s death. It was given by another source.

So Wikipedia can get confused because inital reports were varied about the cause of Lay’s death, but Reuters can’t even identify who gave them the information they used in their report?

And journalism has sunk to a new low.

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18 Comments

  1. That was an intriguing read. Why no comments on this post? Did you disable them?

  2. Mike

    You know what, Wikipedia is not a news site. You should check the article on Lay in a few weeks/months/years.
    That said, I think editors should wait with posting new facts until they are sure about the information.

  3. Jason

    That is the most ridiculous overstatement I’ve heard in months. Journalists are human and can make minor mistakes, which is precisely what misquoting a source is. Journalists are not given free reign to deface an article just for half a second of infamy.

    I think if you truly cared about Wikipedia and this open-editing movement in general, you might agree with Reuters and propose some solutions or ideas about ways that Wikipedia could combat article vandalism, particularly during unfolding current events.

  4. Joe

    “And journalism has sunk to a new low.”

    That’s a little too strong, don’t you think?

  5. Comments are definitely not turned off — just a bunch of drive-by viewers, I guess!

  6. Joe — the statement is obviously tongue-in-cheek, as the entire situation is filled with irony.

    Jason — first off, I’m not a full-fledged Wikipedian. It’s obviously a revolutionary idea, and I’m a big fan of the site, but the wiki format in general is not something I’m particularly passionate about.

    That being the case, as an informed observer, there’s a ridiculous level of irony when a news organization, especially one that feels threatened by a non-news site, slams the site for making mistakes, then has to correct one of their own.

    Of course journalists are human beings — away from the computer, I’m a journalist (and, obviously, a human). Mistakes happen, but the timing and circumstance of this one make it too laughable to pass up.

  7. Tom Jefferson

    Wikipedia sucks. It is revisionist history written by large corporations, governments, and dumb kids. Each of these malicious sources have either large resources or unlimited free time to spend censoring anything they don’t want other people to know.

    Why isn’t the Manning Memo in the US-Iraq war article in Wikipedia? Cause the U.S. government doesn’t want people to know about it.

    NPOV means whitewashing history. If Wikipedia was around in 1938, it would revert any edits that mentioned the holocust because it’s not NPOV.

  8. MrCopilot
  9. Does anyone know what the Encyclopedia Britanica article on Ken Lay says? How many minutes did it take before they updated all of their encyclopedias to reflect his death?

  10. Don’t understand the problem…Each is still just an current events site with historical data that couldn’t be used for any kind of academic purposes so it is still a laymens site. Neither can be used for any creditable references.

    Bob
    Don Lapre Is Cool
    bob@dec50th.com

  11. So I want to know does any body else use wikipedia and what for?
    what was the most informatibve artical you found there?
    What was the wierdest one you found?
    I use wikipedia mostly durring my lunch time at work to just read up on stuff. the most informative artical I found was on the mineing and refineing
    process for copper (because I learned about the job I have, and got to show off to co-workers ;p) the most interesting was probably on cheese witch I
    actualy e-mailed to my self so I could finish reading it after work.
    oh well, got wiki?

  12. Being a writer on wikipedia I can atest to the fact that this site is one of the single best resources on the internet. I am amazed how quickly this site has become a tool for millions of visitors every day. It is breathtaking.

    I live close to the St Petersburg Florida originator of Wiki and am proud to be a part of the team. Atleast a contributor.

    Happy New Year folks!

  13. :)

  14. the-irony-reuters-slams-wikipedias-credibility-issues-own-correction/

  15. Candice Brown

    Wikipedia is nothing more than a big clique. Sorry, no one is impressed by that.

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