Thursday, May 14, 2009

You Can Fool Some of the People All the Time...

You know how you get most of your information from Wikipedia? Apparently that's what professional journalists do, too.

Irish student Shane Fitzgerald decided to test this. When French composer Maurice Jarre died on March 28, Fitzgerald posted a fake quote on Jarre's Wikipedia page:

"One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head that only I can hear."

Newspapers thought this quote was ideal for obituaries, which is what Fitzgerald was going for. Expect he thought it wouldn't get picked up by major papers, because the quote didn't have a source. (Usually for major information, Wikipedia requires a link to an outside source.) But it did--even the Guardian picked it up. Later, the Guardian became the only news organization to formally admit its mistake.

Poorly done, journalists. Well done, Fitzgerald. He said:

"I didn't want to be devious. I just wanted to show how the 24-hour, minute-by-minute media were now taking material straight from Wikipedia because of the deadline pressure they're under."

Okay, that's understandable. But seriously, you have all the resources of a major news organization at your fingertips, and yet you act like a high schooler who needs to pad their paper on Ben Franklin? Get your act together, reporters.