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Irish Wikifiddler hoaxes worldwide journos

Wikipedia: 'Just another mainstream news medium'

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In a case of Wikihistory repeating itself - again - a 22-year-old Dublin student has made a mockery of both Wikipedia and the world's news media, fooling another army of brain-dead obituarists into repeating a load of Wikinonsense.

When film composer Maurice Jarre died at the end of March, The Irish Times reports, University College Dublin undergraduate Shane Fitzgerald promptly visited "the free encyclopedia anyone can edit," adding an entirely fictional quote to Jarre's Wikipedia bio.

"One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack," read the words stuffed into the mouth of Jarre's Wikiland alter-ego. "Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head, that only I can hear."

Naturally, the quote later turned up in Jarre obituaries from countless news outlets, including The Guardian, The Independent, and the BBC Music Magazine website as well as various Indian and Australian newspapers.

According to The Irish Times, Fitzgerald "wanted to show how journalists use the internet as a primary source and how people are connected especially through the internet." But this has been shown time and again.

The never-ending Wikinonsense could easily be stopped. The German Wikipedia is already using something called "Flagged Revisions" to prevent such hoaxing - hiding certain edits from the public unless they're approved by "trusted editors" - and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales has called on the English Wikipedia to do much the same thing.

But to date, the English Wikicultists have refused, claiming that this would somehow undermine the tenets of Web 2.0. And even Flagged Revisions is a misguided compromise. Wales won't go further because he sees Wikipedia as some sort of "breaking news" source.

This bizarre attitude was recently echoed by Sue Gardner, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, who told Haaterz that she's "quite comfortable" with Wikinonsense, calling the site "just another mainstream news medium."

"I know that more or less the same mistakes can be found in the New York Times," she said.

This is somewhat surprising when you consider that Wikipedia is billed as, well, an encyclopedia. That's the pedia bit. And it's worth noting that the New York Times doesn't give anyone and their brother the freedom to rig stories towards their particular point of view - or post fake quotes to its web page.

Of course, when you consider that the world's newspapers are misguided enough to pull their info straight from Wikipedia, the two are closer than they might seem. ®

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