Is Wikipedia a Trustworthy Source?
I recently got into an interesting discussion on Facebook about whether journalists should use Wikipedia as a source. My friend Connie Hale had posted about poet end editor Jill Bialosky, whose new memoir is facing accusations of plagiarism. One of the sites she is believed to have copied from was Wikipedia. In a NYT article, Bialosky commented that she “inadvertently” included “fragments of prior common biographical sources and tropes after a multiyear writing process.”
I didn’t think this reason absolved her, but in addition, I was shocked that she would have considered Wikipedia to be a trusted source of facts. Another journalist friend asked me whether I considered the reference site as unreliable even after they began requiring citations. I told her yes. I rely on Wikipedia all the time for background, but if I wanted to use something, I would look at the original citation and reference that if I found it to be reliable.
In general, I don’t trust anyone’s reporting but my own and those whose work I know to have integrity. Given that even journalists don’t always have the same sourcing standards, I’d be wary of trusting any information written by nameless people.
Journalistic ethics also require writers to provide attribution when you incorporate someone else’s reporting in your work. Citing Wikipedia would be another way of telling the reader that I was too lazy to do my own reporting.