Wikipedia as a credible source
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 01:01
All our lives Wikipedia has been denounced as a credible source. Over the years it’s been a battle to convince high school teachers and college professors the Internet is a valid resource. Well, we’re here to make a case for those dismissed sources of information.
Everyone can edit Wikipedia — its greatest and worst feature. Perhaps in the early years, Wikipedia was overrun by trolls who think it’s funny to fill in factually incorrect details. Gradually, however, collaborative editing has allowed detail-oriented people to correct these factual errors.
Any worthwhile blog, news feed or webpage makes use of hyperlinks. Plus, Wikipedia is particularly good at citing its sources. Checking up on a funky fact isn’t incredibly difficult. Fortunately, funky facts are easy to spot and would seem to be few and far between.
A study conducted in 2011 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information compared the quality of information concerning mental disorders on Wikipedia with centrally-controlled web and printed sources. They found Wikipedia was “generally as good as, or better than” government websites, Encyclopaedia Britannica and a psychiatry textbook.
Beginning in 2004, more than 100 judicial rulings have relied on Wikipedia, according to a 2007 article published in The New York Times. Yes, in case you were wondering, we originally found this fact on Wikipedia. Does that make it any less true?
So, is Wikipedia only held back as a valid source because it’s available only online and not in a library?
The prejudice against Internet sources and Wikipedia starts with a petty addiction to physical paper. As journalists, you’d think we’d understand this addiction. As journalists, however, it is our job to move forward with the times and adjust in a new medium. Print is awesome, but so are our computers.
Not all of our professors are so addicted to print, though. For the most part, the lovely handful who do embrace the Internet as a resource still don’t accept Wikipedia as credible. They might say to use it as a starting-off point. The clever students will use Wikipedia’s information anyway, and cite its sources.
Wikipedia is a fantastic resource. Its readily available information has allowed it to become the easiest route to information.
No, it’s not perfect, but is anything? People tend to exaggerate. Government agencies censor what information is released.
As journalists, we handle sources regularly. It’s our job to seek the truth and weed through the crap. We can’t trust everything we hear or read. A credible source varies from case to case. We understand why Wikipedia has been approached with skepticism, but it’s time to let that go.
Our greatest resource — the Internet — is our greatest resource because it enables everyone to publish anything. This includes Wikipedia.
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