The Longest Now

Open Letterer: Philip Roth hopes his op-ed will serve as a cite
Friday September 07th 2012, 5:59 pm
Filed under: wikipedia

As my father would say, goodness gracious. An overflowing and eloquent letter by Roth complaining about a Wikipedia article just appeared as a piece in the New Yorker, intentionally missing the point of neutral third-party synthesis.

From the Wikipedia discussion page for the article in question:

There was nothing wrong with the article whatsoever, nor with the way policy was applied in this case. The section in question was about the reception of the novel… It reported in an entirely NPOV manner the take of a critic [Michiko Kakutani] writing for the most respected newspaper in the country. If her speculations were unfounded, that is an issue for the New York Times, not wikipedia. For that matter, the fact that Roth contested the claim was already noted right there in the section.

We need to find a better way to let first-person sources contribute to or inform articles; they shouldn’t feel a need to generate external publications just to express a personal statement or opinion about their own life or work. At the same time, the sort of frustration he expressed in his op-ed should be rightly directed at the Times. And our society of knowledge, not to mention WP itself, does need a crisper way to support the challenge of a specific source or cite as poorly researched, untrustworthy, or otherwise undeserving of republication.

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