Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Wiki Wars

By Shawn Healy
Wikipedia is often elevated as the model for the democratizing features of the Digital Age. Users are invited to add their own content, and the sum of the separate parts create a myriad of encyclopedic entries seemingly superior to those offered by mainstream sources. The menu is certainly more expansive regardless.

News of its inaccuracies and arguably defamatory content in the case of legendary reporter, editor and First Amendment icon John Seigenthaler, Sr., surfaced in 2005 and made us all skeptics of entires penned in many cases by commoners and conspiracy theorists. Yesterday's front page of the NY Times included an article detailing how companies use Wikipedia as a PR mechanism, uploading content, even editing words to place their enterprises in the best possible light. Such damaging evidence considered, should wiki's be relegated to the credibility of a chat room conversation at 2am?

I would argue in the negative. First of all, in my research for an April article on Internet censorship in China (Social Education, Vol. 71, No.3, Pages 158-163), I found that Wikipedia stood alone among major American tech companies in its refusal to cede to the demands of the Great Firewall.

If official state censorship will not be sanctioned, then why back down to big business? This is where we must play a part in the process. The answer is not to dismiss Wikipedia altogether, but to partake in the process, essentially answering biased speech with our own counterpunch, attaining objectivity along the way. It's really no different than good reporting in an era when we're all publishers.

PR firms have their own media practice and are hired out by corporate America (and even nonprofits like the Freedom Museum) to help shape the image of their clients in print, on television, and increasingly, on the Internet. They pen op-ed pieces, march out a parade of press releases, and plant seeds for favorable stories in the minds of reporters and the their editors. Professional journalists take this information and dig for data that presents the opposing viewpoint, allowing the reader/viewer to draw their own conclusions.

Wikipedia enables us to do the same, but requires the vigilance of an Internet populace still in a fledgling state. Truth is ours for the taking, or should I say making?


Post a Comment

<< Home


Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

Powered by Blogger