I’ve been waiting for a quality citizen newspaper to hit the cyber streets. One that gives me the headlines, and links to similar articles, updated by my peers, trustworthy (!), maybe ability to comment and rant, and so on. In the meantime, I have news aggregators such as Yahoo!7 News headlines and GoogleNews and stuff emailed to me; if I’m interested I click through and if I can find the article’s text in amongst the barrage of ads, I’m happy. Need more information? Hop over to Wikipedia and grab more indepth stuff, I’m home and hosed.

I’m also a fool.

Wikipedia is the citizen newspaper. I saw Ken Lay’s death reported on a few news services and read the brief info there. Then I had a giggle at Crikey.com’s article, they are soooo naughty and irreverent aren’t they? (irreverent I said, not irrelevant!). Then I scampered over to Wikipedia to read their bits and bobs on Ken Lay and Enron. It wasn’t until I came across this piece from the Washington Post that I remembered (again) that WikiPedia is updated in realtime by real people. Silly me.

Ken Lay’s death prompts confusion on Wikipedia
ReutersWednesday, July 5, 2006; 5:55 PM
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The death of former Enron Corp. chief Ken Lay on Wednesday underscored the challenges facing online encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/), which as the news was breaking offered a variety of causes for his death.

Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, added news of Lay’s death to his online biography shortly after news outlets began reporting it at around 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT).
At 10:06 a.m., Wikipedia’s entry for Lay said he died “of an apparent suicide.”
At 10:08, it said he died at his Aspen, Colorado home “of an apparent [heart attack] or [suicide].”
Within the same minute, it said the cause of death was “yet to be determined.”
At 10:09 a.m., it said “no further details have been officially released” about the death.
Two minutes later, it said: “The guilt of ruining so many lives finally (sic) led him to his suicide.”
At 10.12 a.m., this was replaced by: “According to Lay’s pastor the cause was a ‘massive coronary’ heart attack.”
By 10:39 a.m., Lay’s entry said: “Speculation as to the cause of the heart attack lead many people to believe it was due to the amount of stress put on him by the Enron trial.” This statement was later dropped.
By early Wednesday afternoon, the entry said Lay was pronounced dead at Aspen Valley Hospital, citing the Pitkin, Colorado sheriff’s department. It said he apparently died of a massive heart attack, citing KHOU-TV in Houston.

Officials at Wikipedia did not immediately return phone and e-mail requests for comment. Its Web site warns users that “newer articles may still contain significant misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism.” Wikipedia says it has 13,000 active writers and editors.

The real question here is; Do we care that “newer articles may still contain significant misinformation”? Do we care that the information takes a day or two to settle down? Do we believe think it’s less relevant than waiting on a journo who will report what the secretary said, or a ‘source close to the deceased’??

I don’t.

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