I originally blogged about this in the moments after Kenneth Lay’s death, that Wikipedia was almost immediately reporting his death. I think Jason Unger is right.
“Wikipedia is NOT a source for news”
Of course it’s not, but it’s often the place where journalists go for information, because it contains a wealth of information on just about everything, from obscure local references — to major breaking international news. But, as journalists, we must keep in mind, Wikipedia is only as reliable as its editors, and its editors are anyone who damn well wants to be an editor.
The people who post information to Wikipedia are not journalists. They are anonymous and while I would venture to say that most are honestly trying to create a useful online encyclopedia, there are others who, for whatever reason, have less noble motivations.
As journalists, we can use Wikipedia, but we must use it as a starting point for gathering further information. As the Kenneth Lay incident has shown us, we can not take what Wikipedia says as gospel. We all use it from time to time to check some fact or other — but we must remember that sometimes it’s better to be right and a little late with a story, than to be first .. with the wrong story.