Sunday, March 18, 2007

Truth is, Wikipedia's inexact

Truth is, Wikipedia's inexact
Ellis Henican
March 18, 2007

Things I've learned on Wikipedia:

That newspaper editor John Seigenthaler conspired to kill the Kennedy brothers.

That the prime minister of Norway is a pedophile.

And the big one this weekend, that the comedian Sinbad is dead from a heart attack.

Oh, no he's not! He's no more dead than the editor's an assassin or the PM molests kids. Sinbad's alive and laughing right now.

"I rose from the dead and then died again," the living, breathing funnyman told a reporter after hearing the rattling news. "It's gonna be more commonplace as the Internet opens up more and more. It's not that strange."

Here's the truth about the Wikipedia Web site. It's wrong sometimes, flamboyantly wrong. But it's still a wonderful site. I don't take it as gospel. No one should. The facts have to be checked before they are dragged into print.

But the vast majority of those facts do turn out to be correct.

And if there is a broader-based, more comprehensive, better-organized general-information encyclopedia on the Web - would someone please point me toward it?

Wikipedia's strength also is its weakness: Readers are free to edit the entries. This creates the breadth and the expertise, and it also allows the mischief.

So let's just be clear: Sinbad, real name David Adkins, is very much alive at 50. He was born Nov. 10, 1956, in Benton Harbor, Mich. He hit as a stand-up in the late 1980s. His movie roles include "Houseguest" (1995), "First Kid" (1996) and "Jingle All the Way" (1996).

All that's probably true. But still, I'd better check it. I got it off Wikipedia.

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