Wikipedia—-what you see is what you get!

Wikipedia is a living, breathing virtual Internet encyclopedia. The authors are all of us. Sure the folks at pumped a ton of public domain information into the website but over the years it is people like you and me who have contributed and more importantly corrected and edited the articles.

There is of course great concern by educators that Wikipedia is becoming a crutch for students looking for information to include in their research projects. Dr. Stephen DiBenedetto from the University of Miami says of the Wikipedia product, “you do not know where something is coming from, how can you trust it?” He has a point, a valid point, which Wikipedia representatives quickly acknowledge, “Some types of academic papers should be source to a primary or secondary source, not Wikipedia,” Dan Rosenthal told us. Rosenthal is a designated spokesperson for Wikipedia and occasionally edits articles. 

What’s interesting is most everyone involved, students, teachers, professors do agree that Wikipedia is a great first stop for a general overview of a subject. The next task is to take that overview and let it guide you to primary sources. Then it dawned on me. This is much like the same discussion we had years ago when my mom and dad, like lots of parents back then, bought encyclopedia sets from the door to door salesman that knocked on the door. Educators said the same thing, “don’t quote the encyclopedia!” Nothing has changed except Wikipedia is updated every second of the day. Wikipedia does not sit on a shelf gathering dust till needed.

As far a correcting errors or flushing out political attacks, Wikipedia works rather quickly. The organization has two thousand administrators that have the ability to delete or modify articles and  there are thousand of editors who volenteer time. A major error or bit of false information may last only hours.

I have actually added to or corrected information which I have found in articles where I have some expertise. It was quick, easy and has stood up over time. 

Yes, I have Wikipedia on my front screen. It is a short cut that I often use to get the big picture on a story that has been suddenly thrust on me and my photographer. But i realize that it is what it is, a general guideline not the end all source.  Handle Wikipedia gently it can be your friend and source for almost everything you need to know!




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