LAURINDA KEYS LONG
Many educators and editors are leery of
Wikipedia because students and less experienced writers use it as a
primary source, rather than as a compendium of background information that
needs to be checked and confirmed before being included in an article or
It also seems to be a temptation to plagiarists. Some journalists have
been found to include large blocks of Wikipedia text, verbatim, in work
under their bylines, raising doubts about their commitment to
fact-checking, reporting and writing, as well as honesty.
Even if a writer is clever enough to rewrite the Wikipedia text into her
own words, the "facts" have not been checked. The articles on Wikipedia
are in most cases not written by experts in those fields (in fact, real
experts are forbidden from quoting their own work on Wikipedia), and it is
impossible to know for sure which bits in the lifted material are correct
and which are not. This undermines the purpose of writing academic or
journalistic articles: to convey accurate information to the reader.
In the United States, some high schools have blocked their students from
accessing Wikipedia, others are trying to teach pupils how to use it as a
general resource along with more reliable, primary material. At
universities, professors are warning their students about relying upon
Wikipedia. These educators are concerned because they want their students
to learn correct information and concepts, not incorrect ones. They also
want them to learn to be discerning, to ask, when they read: "Who says so?
And does the person who is saying so have enough knowledge or experience
that I should rely on it?" Wikipedia does not supply this information.
"I think what is more important than banning resources that a student
might or might not use is helping students to understand how to make
critical judgments about the resources they uncover," Sandra Jordan,
associate provost of Murray State University in Kentucky, was quoted as
saying in an article in the school newspaper about professors' concerns
with Wikipedia. The April 6, 2007 Murray State News article, by Emily
Wuchner, also quoted student Tyler Moore as saying he still uses the site
for background information. But he has learned from his teachers to search
out research-based articles that have "actual sources and references and
citations in them." When he first started using Wikipedia, he said, "I
thought I could trust all of the information that was on the site. I
didn't really know that anyone could go in and just modify or change it,
so I took all of the information as being correct."
There is a problem with inaccurate postings like the hoax article about
the "Upper Peninsula War" between Canadians and Americans, complete with
maps and "historical photos." This war never happened, yet the article
remained on Wikipedia for two weeks. Articles on obscure topics receive
less monitoring from Wikipedia checkers.
Other problems have arisen when companies, organizations, governments,
groups and individuals write their own Wikipedia entries (which the site
says it does not allow), when they "edit" articles written by others to
make themselves look better, or "correct" articles on their opponents to
make them look worse.
"Young and old alike often go to Wikipedia and see that its name ends in
'-pedia'," says Andy Carvin (http://www. andycarvin.com/archives) in his
blog on Internet culture.
"They assume it's just like any other encyclopedia and they should take
its content as vetted, accurate information, which ain't always the case."
* "Wiki" is used in Hawaii to mean "quick."
* Wikipedia contains nearly 2 million entries.
* In more than 253 languages.
* Owned by the Wikimedia Foundation.
* Biggest expense is Internet hosting, at $189,631, according to its 2006
* Total expenses were $791,907 in 2006.
* Received $1.3 million in contributions last year
Courtesy: SPAN Magazine