Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Media and pedia

The professional media, who get paid for their stuff, regard Wikipedia warily. They're more than happy to spread dirt about a volunteer competitor. Mediots jumped all over the Seigenthaler and Essjay rumpuses, and they whooped it up when WikiScanner revealed a lot of conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia. Unfortunately for the media, WikiScanner revealed that some of those questionable edits came from their own computers, as the BBC had to confess.

But like everybody else, mediots often use WP as a quick source of information. John Derbyshire, a pundit at National Review and other right-wing outlets, once harrumphed that he wanted Wikipedia sued into oblivion. Then he started actually using the encyclopedia, and he suddenly became a big fan of how handy WP is.

Wikipedia often takes revenge for media criticism by pointing out examples of mediots plagiarizing WP. A typical case was the, ahem, borrowing of Wikipedia material about the Khobar Towers bombing in a book on the oil industry. Of course, Wikipedia hardly has clean hands itself on plagiarism, as I discussed in a previous post. But it's always nice to embarrass your critics.

For the most part, Jimbo does a good job with the media. He doesn't take himself too seriously in interviews with mediots, and he's willing to accept criticism of WP. If he started getting defensive and circling the wagons, the media would sense a messy kill. As it is, mediots mostly leave Wikipedia alone, except when the latest embarrassment erupts.

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