Wednesday, July 30, 2008

John Edwards Scandal: Wikipedia Editor Defends Policies

William Beutler, an editor at Wikipedia, gives a cool, calm defense of Wikipedia editorial policies and how they affect the "John Edwards" entry in John Edwards Among the Wikipedians.

Yesterday's John Edwards Love Child Scandal: Debate at Wikipedia Rages mentioned the sometimes-heated debate at the on-line reference source over whether to include any mention of the "Love Child Scandal" or "Rielle Hunter" on Edwards' Wikipedia page. The debate can be followed at Talk: John Edwards

Beutler sets up what's happened to this point.

More than 26,000 words (!)* have been expended on the discussion page associated with the John Edwards encyclopedia entry since the National Enquirer posted a story claiming he was seen leaving a hotel room rented for Rielle Hunter (last week), the woman with whom they have alleged he fathered a child out of wedlock (last year). So far, there is no mention of this story in the article — let alone the existence of Ms. Hunter — and because it has been temporarily locked (see above), it doesn’t appear that anyone will. Not just yet, anyway.

I’ve now read about half the debate, which is the whole extent of it before new people start showing up and re-arguing old points. Based on my own knowledge of how Wikipedia works and what I’ve seen in the press, I’ve come to the conclusion that, even though it sure looks like Edwards’ goose is cooked, Wikipedia’s editors are currently doing the responsible thing by keeping it out of the article.

Getting to the defense of what some--including DBKP--have characterized as foot-dragging, Beutler explains:
"There are two reasons to proceed with caution, in addition to the truth remaining at large. One is Wikipedia’s strict guidelines for biographies of living persons and the other is that Wikipedia is a reference site, not a news site."

Patrick Ruffini, among others, is unimpressed. In a comment on the Beutler post, he noted: "If Edwards were a Republican, the National Enquirer scandal would be the first line of his Wikipedia entry, and anyone attempting to take it down would be immediately edited out."

By far, the most valid point made here is that Wikipedia is not a news site. It has no deadline to meet when including updates to already-published information. As Beutler pointed out, there's no deadlines to meet.

If this same strict standard is applied to all Wikipedia entries, then “What’s the rush?” is a good defense to charges of editorial bias and selective foot-dragging.

It will be something for Wiki-watchers to look for in the future.

All-in-all, a good defense of one side in a heated on-line debate.

DBKP will continue to follow the debate.

by Mondoreb

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