I considered putting this in the Media Bias section, but I think this constitutes negligence more than bias. This dude is my new hero.

DUBLIN - When Dublin university student Shane Fitzgerald posted a poetic but phony quote on Wikipedia, he said he was testing how our globalized, increasingly Internet-dependent media was upholding accuracy and accountability in an age of instant news. His report card: Wikipedia passed. Journalism flunked. The sociology major's made-up quote which he added to the Wikipedia page of Maurice Jarre hours after the French composer's death March 28 flew straight on to dozens of U.S. blogs and newspaper Web sites in Britain, Australia and India. They used the fabricated material, Fitzgerald said, even though administrators at the free online encyclopedia quickly caught the quote's lack of attribution and removed it, but not quickly enough to keep some journalists from cutting and pasting it first.

A full month went by and nobody noticed the editorial fraud. So Fitzgerald told several media outlets in an e-mail and the corrections began. "I was really shocked at the results from the experiment," Fitzgerald, 22, said Monday. (snip) "I am 100 percent convinced that if I hadn't come forward, that quote would have gone down in history as something Maurice Jarre said, instead of something I made up," he said. "It would have become another example where, once anything is printed enough times in the media without challenge, it becomes fact."


Wikipedia is generally a fairly reliable source, most of the time, but people (especially journalists) need to remember that anyone in the world can edit Wiki's pages. So skepticism is always in order when the claims are not properly sourced or footnoted. It keeps a historical record of changes and often the moderators have to revert those changes back to remove false or malicious postings (as was the case with this false quote). Corporate employees have been caught editing out negative (but truthful) comments about their company. As consumers of information, people need to pay attention to whether the page's claims are properly sourced in the foot notes. As disseminators of what is supposed to be the "truth," it's unacceptable for journalists to fail so badly at verifying what they're reporting.