Wiki Under Fire

Wikipedia has been coming under fire as a result of an article written in the USA Today by former RFK administration member, John Seigenthaler, Sr. He was upset that someone has slandered him on his Wikipedia biographical page. Any anonymous prankster insinuated that Seigenthaler was somehow connected to the Kennedy assasinations. I can imagine that it would be awful if something like that happened to me. What I can’t imagine is shooting the messenger.

My two cents: Yes, someone slandered you. Yes, they used Wikipedia to do it. Yes, sometimes Wikipedia has incorrect information. Beauty of a wiki – you didn’t need to call your lawyer, and your son didn’t need to call you. Just press the “edit” button and correct any misinformation. Better than writing an editorial, you actually get rid of the offending content!

You cannot deny the power of Wikipedia. Thousands of people are willing to write for Wikipedia, and millions are willing to read it. The medium means something. Wikis empower people in ways we haven’t fully grasped yet. Maybe Wikipedia isn’t the best place for educators and students at all times, but it certainly is relevant. It is a study in media literacy, cultural contexts, bias, reading comprehension, web literacy, analytical writing and more.

Educators and librarians should be teaching the difference between encyclopedias, journal articles, opinion pieces, Wikipedia, newspapers, TV, video blogs, etc. Students should be able to decipher these different mediums, and take out the credible information they need.

Relevant reading:

Corollary: I was at the grocery store the other day and one of the tabloids had a cover story about the American girl who disappeared in Aruba being found. Now it is not true, but are they being blased by USA Today editorialists? Might the false news within Wikipedia make it like a mixture of Brittanica and the National Enquirer? Should rating functions be more intertwined with wikis? Perhaps…

arvind s. grover

I am a progressive educator, a podcaster (, a blogger, and dean of faculty of JK-11 school (building a high school) in New York City.