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A Wiki Runs Through It

by Paul Jacob

You can never step into the same Wikipedia twice. That's what Heraclitus said about rivers. I bring this up to put the current Wikipedia scandal in perspective. Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, is always changing.

The Web encyclopedia is a marvel of cooperation. More than 13,000 contributors freely give their time to the project, writing, editing, researching.

Unfortunately, a few contributors create havoc with false entries. Take the case of John Seigenthaler, Sr. For 132 days a bio of him appeared on Wikipedia that implicated him in the assassinations of both John and Bobby Kennedy. This galled him, of course, especially since he had worked for Bobby Kennedy.

Seigenthaler did not sign up immediately onto Wikipedia to delete the lies, as he easily could have. He publicized the situation, instead, and wrote to the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, to ask if he could find the author of the libelous note. Wales couldn't. Then Seigenthaler wrote a USA Today op-ed about it.

In the end, the entry was changed, now including a long section on the controversy itself. Seigenthaler, an old hand at Old Media, made waves in the public arena and even got a New Media institution to tighten up its policies as to who may write or edit entries.

And Wikipedia, I trust, will be better than ever -- the next time I step my foot into its waters.

Common Sense is published by Americans for Limited Government. Their website can be visited at