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?