BBC NEWS | Technology | What is it with Wikipedia? The days when everything you saw on a screen had been carefully filtered, vetted, edited and checked are long gone.
The mistake here is in assuming that this were ever true. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica (arguably one of the very best sources) would - when checked against other sources - have occasional weak areas and omissions. Articles in the newspaper vary quite a lot in quality - only rarely (very rarely) could a newspaper article be described as “carefully filtered, vetted, edited and checked”.
Once a Wikipedia article gets reviewed by a few knowledgable folks, we are likely well above ordinary newspaper quality.
The question is not whether there will be weak articles (there always are), or some degree of distortion (there always is). The question is whether the combination of pooled knowledge and community review will yield a higher average quality than other sources.
I find the recent flap (inaccurate Wikipedia entries mentioning Siegenthaler) oddly thought provoking. Instead of correcting the entries - which would have taken minutes - Siegenthaler’s first reaction was to try and contact some sort of external authority. Stop and think about this a bit. Why the hesitation? Why not make an immediate correction?
Do both Siegenthaler’s actions and the assumption that old media is somehow more accurate point toward a sort of blind deference to authority - a deference that we would be better off without?