After non-partisan free encyclopaedia Wikipedia declared the Daily Mail to be an unreliable information source - something most people in the UK have known for decades - the paper’s legendarily foul mouthed editor Paul Dacre was incandescent: how dare anyone call his mighty organ, which had once again been declared “Newspaper of the year”, to be less than totally wonderful? A hit job was cult ordered, and executed.
Dacre ordered his faithful retained Guy Adams over the top to pass severely adverse comment on Wikipedia, those who bankroll it, and the editor involved. But here a problem entered: they couldn’t track down Wiki editor Michael Cockram. So they went and doorstepped his mother instead. It is highly likely that the information that enabled them to make that visit did not come from collaborative and transparent means.
But the Mail’s attack piece achieved precisely nothing: worse for the paper, and for the rest of the popular press, was that Wikimedia UK was asked to provide written evidence for the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee, in which the conclusion about the Mail’s lack of reliability was restated, and for good measure the rest of the tabloid pack was described in less than flattering terms.
This is the relevant paragraph: “In general, tabloid-journalist newspapers, such as The Sun, Daily Mirror, equivalent television shows, or sites like The Register, should be used with caution, especially if they are making sensational claims. The Daily Express and Sunday Express should be treated with even greater caution. Following a request for comment in February 2017, the Daily Mail is no longer considered to be a reliable source and cannot be used to demonstrate notability”.
So the ban on using the Mail as a reliable source remains, and Dacre’s hit job has had zero effect. Government ministers who are used to bending to the will of the Vagina Monologue might do well to take note. And as for the Murdoch Sun, well, the goons in the Baby Shard bunker have been getting their retaliation in for months now.
So readers have seen “Teen sneaks into a VIP section at a gig by changing band’s Wikipedia page to say he’s the singer’s cousin”, as well as “Eggheads star CJ de Mooi claims arrest over alleged killing was based on ‘bogus Wikipedia article’” and the inevitable football story “Kevin Friend ruthlessly trolled on Twitter and even has his Wikipedia page edited after shocking performance during Manchester United vs Bournemouth game”.
The line to take is the same every time: don’t take any notice, it’s not a serious or reliable place to get information. But the reverse is true: by sourcing information from reliable citations and sticking to those media outlets that are still capable of distinguishing news from comment - or pure speculation - Wikipedia gradually becomes far more reliable than tabloid papers which work to promote an agenda, rather than serve up news.
And now Wikimedia has the ear of Government. Another nail in the press monopoly coffin.