Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wikipedia: To Trust or Not To Trust?

Nicole Mahdavi

As a journalism student, all my journalism professor's have reiterated the importance of using good, reliable sources when covering a story. Whether one of those sources be an online source or not, it has always been stated by my teachers for as far back as I can remember being in school that, "Wikipedia is not a source."

Why is that? Many argue that since virtually anyone can contribute information to Wikipedia, that all the information being presented cannot necessarily be trusted. In Correspondence according to "Wikimedia's  Foundation Guiding Principles,"posted by the Wikimedia Foundation, one of their most valued principles is freedom and open source. The site claims that, "With the exception of 'fair use' material, all information in Wikimedia projects can be freely shared, freely distributed, freely modified and freely used for any purpose.."

Allowing the public to contribute and modify information can result in sharing of misinformation. In a 2014 NY Times article titled, " Wikipedia Emerges as Trusted Internet Source for Ebola Information" it talks about Wikipedia coming in second for being the place where most people went to get their information on the Ebola outbreaks that were occurring that year.

The article does raise the question whether or not the information being shared by Wikipedia is in fact true, due to its numerous contributors, and in response states that, "Many impediments exist to someone casually editing the Ebola article. Only registered Wikipedia editors with at least some experience are permitted to edit the page, and the requirement for sourcing is much more rigorous than for other wikipedia entries" (NY Times 2014).

Could it be that we are being misinformed on the technicalities of wikipedia? Before having read the NY Times article I had thought, that someone like me, or even someone far less educated could log on and contribute whatever information they wanted to the site.

Although, we are all taught not to trust wikipedia, many americans still use wikipedia to read up on information. In fact, Wikimedia has grown so much that it has expanded itself into 15 different projects, wikipedia only being one of them.

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