Interesting Thoughts

The Times on Wikipedia

There are many good journalists working for The Times (that’s the London Times to US readers) and overall it is a solid and highly respectable newspaper.

However, an interesting piece by Jenny Kleeman on Wikipedia in Friday’s edition was spoiled by a rather stupid comment from Richard Dixon, the “Chief Revise Editor” for the newspaper.

He is quoted as saying:

“My default position is that every article on Wikipedia is rubbish.”

I don’t think he is joking. But if he reads his own paper he might find that rubbish is closer to home. Flicking through yesterday’s Times supplement called The Knowledge (oh, the irony) I noticed a mistake in an interview with Eva Mendes.

It featured a photo of her in Once Upon a Time In Mexico with Johnny Depp (see the image below):

Times Mistake

You’ll see that they wrongly identify the picture as being from The Mexican. That 2001 film didn’t star Eva Mendes or Johnny Depp but was actually a comedy with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.

But things get even weirder. If you look at the online version of the interview it doesn’t have the above picture but does appear to contain another mistake as it is dated “February 3rd 2007”. Surely they mean March 3rd?

Wikipedia isn’t perfect but there are numerous articles on there of great value. For people interested in film and TV, the entries for Blade Runner, Casablanca, Lost and Jaws are all excellent introductions to those films.

Whilst vandalism is an ongoing issue for the site, it amazes me that corrections can be made so quickly and overall I’m glad it exists. I don’t believe everything on it is true and I’m not a slavish devotee but on balance it is very useful indeed, especially as a platform for finding out more about a particular subject.

So, before Richard Dixon wants to berate every article on Wikipedia as “rubbish” I think he should check out the mistakes in his own paper. Confusing the films of Eva Mendes with those of Julia Roberts is one thing, but getting the date wrong (by a month) is another.

Perhaps worse is the lack of any clear corrections policy on the front page of their website. Wikipedia has an inbuilt system for correcting inaccuracies but what exactly is the policy of The Times?

> The Times article discussing the merits of Wikipedia
> The entry for Eva Mendes on Wikipedia (you’ll see there is no mention of The Mexican)
> A more intelligent article on Wikipedia by Robbie Hudson in The Sunday Times last year