McIntyre is having a cow about Wikipedia
The title is taken from a post by Androcass, who fundamentally agrees with me. You can watch the cow emerge in three successive posts, “I said, get Mitty,” “Wikipediaphilia,” and “Crisis of authority.” Make sure you check the comments for the stout defense mounted by the Wikipediaphiliacs.
Here’s why McIntyre is having a cow.
I work as an editor. My whole professional effort for nearly three decades has been to make sure that the published texts at the newspapers for which I have worked are, as far as human fallibility and the pressures of time will allow, factually accurate, grammatical and clear.
To do this requires knowledgeable, trained editors. To become a copy editor at The Baltimore Sun, an applicant has to run the gantlet of the usual scrutiny of resume, interviews and reference checks — and a grueling test that covers a dozen categories of general knowledge and an extensive section of texts to be edited. Those who have taken it remember it.
The book and magazine and newspaper publishers who have been dismembering their editing staffs have been doing so in desperation, for economic motives. What leaves me spluttering is the Wikipediaphiliacs’ apparent belief that such editing doesn’t matter; everything will even itself out.
I don’t doubt that many knowledgeable writers have generously contributed to Wikipedia, and that many earnest editors monitor the wiki. But Wikipedia lacks the personnel and structure to check and edit effectively. Bad information is posted, sound entries are corrupted by ill-informed contributors or saboteurs, and the editors cannot keep up. The consequence is that you can trust Wikipedia only when you already know the information.
Why would anyone choose to trust a reference that has been repeatedly demonstrated to be unreliable?
After false reports of the deaths of Sens. Edward Kennedy and Robert Byrd were posted on Inauguration Day, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, proposed a procedure to flag new posts and verify them before making them public. The BBC article indicates that this apostasy has provoked a storm of protest from the wiki-warriors. It will delay. It will be expensive.
But the thing is, as David Sullivan pointed out today at That’s the Press, Baby, “The idea of editing -- the idea of newspapers -- in the end rests upon, yes, dear reader, we do in fact know some things in more depth and detail than you do, and are better trained to judge them, just as you may be better trained to design a house or repair an electrical system.” And further, that “standards cannot result from universal input on standards.”
Or to put it in the terms of a proverbial expression: If you put a teaspoon of sewage in a barrel of wine, you get sewage; if you put a teaspoon of wine in a barrel of sewage, you get sewage.