Tag Archives: Wiki

Weekly #7: Wikipedia: To Trust or Not To Trust?

Trust. That’s a mighty big word.

It implies dedication, honesty, forthrightness, and commitment. Relationships are built on trust. Lack of trust shatters business transactions and friendships. Here’s how wikipedia defines “trust.

A recent article on read write web discusses wikipedia as a veritable (breaking) news source. The intro is what grabbed me:

Most any journalism professor, upon mention of Wikipedia, will immediately launch into a rant about how the massively collaborative online encyclopedia can’t be trusted. It can, you see, be edited and altered by absolutely anyone at any moment.

I buy it. Continue.

According to Moka Pantages, the communications officer for the WikiMedia Foundation,

“I absolutely believe Wikipedia is a good, trustworthy source for contextual news and information and should be used by everyone, including students, as a resource. When I was asked during the panel whether or not Wikipedia should be accepted as a source for college papers, it was my opinion that, just like any other encyclopedia, I don’t think it should be cited as a reference source. However, I do think it’s a great starting point for students to start their research and begin to understand the topic or issue they are writing about.”

Pantages made this comment at the global conference by event-media-festival-planning-company, South by Southwest last month, (note to self, get there one year) where this topic was discussed at length.

Part of my questioning lies in her last sentence- “I do think it’s a great starting point for students to start their research and begin to understand the topic or issue they are writing about.” I tend to agree, if not taken too literally (what 9th grader do you know that wouldn’t weave content that “sounds” appealing into a paper somewhere, for a better grade, without literally fact checking?)*

So, then the article continues, what about using Wikipedia for breaking news?

That’s another can of worms.

What’s “breaking news” today anyway? I argue with colleagues daily: CNN’s breaking news emails slant ever so often to the incredibly “non-breaking” in my opinion.

Pop Quiz.

(note to Garrett and Mike: NOT A FAN of such blatant and unexpected validities of knowledge)

Which of the following does CNN determine is breaking news (i.e. deserving of a text/email to all who’ve signed up to be notified that the world is coming to an end)

— President Obama signs landmark health care reform bill into law.

— Man accused of trying to blackmail David Letterman pleads guilty to attempted grand larceny, sentenced to 6 months jail.

— Toyota boss Akio Toyoda says he accepts House panel’s invitation to testify in Washington next Wednesday.

— Serena Williams defeats Justine Henin in three sets to win Australian Open title.

— Jay Leno going back to late nights after disappointing ratings for his prime-time show, NBC says.

Answer: All of the above.

Really? Because the financial impact and devastation to my weekly TV programming clearly necessitates an interrupter to my day.

Here’s my thinking- somewhat utilizing concepts we’ve learned so far this semester. The amount of trust that you place in one source is dependent upon how how credible you determine the impact of it’s message is to a community of which you’re a part. I would argue that your preferences dictate your selection order, and that many of the sources we use (not too far from what Pantages statement implied) are a beginning to an end, not the end itself. You build multiple sources and layers of information that help you build your case or knowledge base.

Which is more trustyworthy- wikipedia or an encyclopedia? I’d argue- they’re about the same. Foundation of research.

By the way, here’s what Stephen Colbert says truthiness is. Because there’s a trustworthy source.

Not too dissimilar to how you build trust, or a house (or even a really bad bank shot during which your bracketology falls to pieces): brick by brick.

* Note, I don’t know many 9th graders, but I do remember myself as one. Tag- Janelle calls her high-school-self out.

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