In Wikipedia we trust

By Nicholas Pappas (U-Wire)

SALT LAKE CITY – I’ve found myself with about six extra hours a week where I have nothing to do.

After a long season – possibly longer than it should have been – the Jazz went out like a lamb in the NBA Western Conference Finals. Tony Parker clipped the overachievers and made a wool coat for Eva.

Electrifying? Sure. The problem with sports is everyone loses but one. It’s the problem with a lot of things. History was written by the winners – until recently.

For the first time, history is being written by just about anyone who can press an enter key.

Do a Google search – for anything. I bet Wikipedia will be in the top five search results. It has become the newest, best source for information anywhere. I mean it. Twenty years ago, I had to prop open an encyclopedia to plagiarize my school reports. I imagine seven year olds doing the same thing with Wikipedia today. They could do a lot worse.

I didn’t always feel this way. When I first learned exactly what Wikipedia was – an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit at his or her own discretion – I was appalled. What did the average joe or jane know about anything? History would almost certainly fall apart. Planes would start falling from the sky, the Holocaust would cease to be real, Dubya’s approval rating would soar.

It wasn’t so, though.

Somewhere in the imaginary world of the Internet, creatures called “Wikipedians” are literally working around the clock to keep the world in order.

Which brings us back to the Jazz. I thought I would read a bit about God on Wikipedia and pulled up the page on Michael Jordan. One line glared: “and as Russell slipped, Jordan released a shot that would be rebroadcast innumerable times in years to come.”

Every Jazz fan knows for a fact Russell didn’t slip. Jordan pushed off.

Thus began a long saga of Wikipedia, geeks with laptops and Michael Jordan. I, and every friend I had, began changing the line to “… and as Jordan pushed off.”

Heated debates began in the discussion section. A new link was formed called “The 1998 NBA Finals Controversy” – which the Wikipedians later destroyed. A few of us were blocked forever, and more than a year later, the line has changed for good.

It’s a little thing, really. There is far more to worry about in the world – John Edwards’ hair, for example, or just how black Barack Obama is. Yet if this were any other site, any other resource, we would have had to accept the writing on the screen. This is the greatness of Wikipedia.

Socrates believed that the nation should be run by philosophers. They would be paid little and would rule only for the goodness and the joy of ruling.

Socrates is dead. Today’s politicians are far from philosophers, and everyone knows the rulers of this nation are the corporations. The parent company of Newsweek owns numerous cable stations and writes an article called “Why TV is good for kids.” TIME magazine, owned by AOL Time Warner, shamelessly writes articles in their best interest.

I began looking at a list of everything AOL Time Warner owns and had to stop halfway. I was worried I would eventually see my own name.

In the end, whom should we trust for information? Newsweek, TIME, or a non-profit organization called the Wikimedia? If I had to choose, it would be the one website where a few geeks can take on a God.

So, before you begin spouting off on how terrible Wikipedia is as a source, ask yourself one question: Who owns you?