Guest post: Wikipedia — fact or fiction?

by andybechtel

Students in my Advanced Editing course are contributors to The Editor’s Desk this semester. They are free to write about whatever they wish, provided that the topic fits the theme for this blog: “thoughts on editing for print and online media.”

This is the 11th of these guest posts. Jessica Stringer is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill. She loves UNC for its journalism program and basketball team. She also loves traveling, movies and her semester abroad in London.

My roommate sat with her brow furrowed as she worked on a Wikipedia page for class. An hour after publishing, her edits were gone. Another user had just deleted a week’s worth of work.

Oh, Wikipedia. An online encyclopedia sounded like a good idea, but the site that professors warned us about is teeming with mistakes and bias.

It’s been three months since Wikipedia said it would consider restricting who could make edits to pages. The new system would allow only reliable users to make immediate changes. Other contributors’ changes would not be posted until a reliable, registered user had approved the change.

What’s the holdup?  The German Wikipedia has been using this system since May. Wikipedia needs to adopt the system soon to rid the site of ridiculous and untrue statements.

Adding in an extra layer of editing would eliminate biased and ignorant users who use Wikipedia as a sounding board. It would also protect honest users like my roommate who make researched and thoughtful changes.

Some argue that the German system is too labor-intensive and takes too long to update. Here’s a suggestion: Find some jobless journalists who already have the investigative skills and editing know-how and put them to work at Wikipedia.

Can’t wait for Wikipedia to get its editing act together? Switch to Citizendium, where experts write reliable and quality articles. Created by one of the founders of Wikipedia, the site is catching on and chock-full of information.

And to the vandals: Save the political views for message boards or dinnertime debate. Better yet, get a blog.

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