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Wikipedia beats Encyclopedia Britannica three to four

<i>Nature</i> contradicts newspapers.
 
 
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We got a heavy news blast in recent weeks about the credibility of the Wikipedia, and it's still a hot topic. The story was that one John Seigenthaler Sr., conveniently a former newspaperman, had a misleading statement in an entry about him on Wikipedia, naming him as a suspect in the assassinations of JFK and RFK. "See," we were told, "you can't trust information unless it comes from journos with bylines, and newspapers with Pullitzers!" Turns out later that it was a joke gone terribly wrong. Seeing as the Wikipedia is the 37th most popular web site out there, the newspapers have a good reason to quake in their ever down-sizing boots.

What has not been splashed across the papers is that in fact Nature, one of the preeminent academic journals, pronounced that Wikipedia is accurate. (Or at least I missed this story, anyway):

"Wikipedia, the encyclopedia that relies on volunteers to pen nearly 4 million articles, is about as accurate in covering scientific topics as Encyclopedia Britannica, the journal Nature wrote in an online article published [Dec. 16].

"The finding, based on a side-by-side comparison of articles covering a broad swath of the scientific spectrum, comes as Wikipedia faces criticism over the accuracy of some of its entries....

"Such errors appear to be the exception rather than the rule, Nature said in Wednesday's article, which the scientific journal said was the first to use peer review to compare Wikipedia to Britannica. Based on 42 articles reviewed by experts, the average scientific entry in Wikipedia contained four errors or omissions, while Britannica had three."

That's a knee-capping citizen-produced research has put on the holy Britanniacs.

In other, totally unrelated news, my favorite bit from that LA Times feature from Sunday on the Scientology HQ that trained Tom Cruise was that staffers at the compound had signed " billion-year contracts." Somewhere in a deep cave Xenu is fuming at the amazing job security the Scientologists offer.

Jan Frel is an AlterNet staff writer.