WikiProject Michael Jackson
In this week's edition of the WikiProject Report, we focus on a project dedicated to the King of Pop: Michael Jackson. Having only existed since July 2007, WikiProject Michael Jackson is one of Wikipedia's younger projects, but it already has 3 Featured Articles and 21 Good Articles. Here to tell us more about the project is Realist2, lead contributor to much of the project's recognized content, including the article on the "king of pop" himself.
1. Although you successfully brought Michael Jackson to Featured Article status, the article has had a tough time getting there. In just over three years, the article has had a failed Good Article nomination, a Good Article reassessment, five unsuccessful Featured Article candidacies, and five peer reviews. What is it about Michael Jackson that makes him so difficult to write about?
I think that is a very interesting question for a number of reasons. Jackson is such a high profile public figure, everyone has heard something about him and everyone knows something about him. There also seems to be conflicting media portrayals of this individual in different areas of the world. In the UK and the US a largely negative tone is set by the mainstream press. In Europe, Japan and parts of South America the press coverage is not as negative. With Jackson we are dealing with an incredibly gifted individual. He sings, writes songs, dances, creates music videos and runs a publishing business amongst other talents. There are then the various controversies that need discussing. All this needs covering within the article and it leads to a terribly complex yet interesting biography.
Certainly the hardest part about getting an article like Michael Jackson featured is complying with WP:BLP, WP:NPOV, WP:UNDUE, WP:RECENTISM and maintaining an international perspective. During the successful FAC there were conflicting opinions amongst reviews as to what should and should not be included in the article.
Although the article is now featured it would quickly slip from that position if I (or the half dozen other regular editors) did not continue to watch over it. Every other week we have to deal with ludicrous tabloid stories and the traffic such stories generate. I recently put the article through a successful peer review, hopefully it will remain featured for many years to come.
2. Why is the Michael Jackson article currently semi-protected?
The Michael Jackson article is indefinitely semi protected, and has been for several years. This applies to numerous other BLPs such as Madonna (entertainer) and Britney Spears. These article are susceptible to high levels of vandalism, pov pushing and edit wars. The community is conflicted with the whole BLP issue. Some (such as myself) believe BLPs should be liberally semi protected while other editors believe that BLP concerns are over exaggerated.
With the Jackson article specifically, removal of the semi protection would cause serious problems. You only have to look at Talk:Michael Jackson (which is not semi protected) to see how much vandalism the subject attracts. At times the article talk page has been semi protected, but this is a rarity.
Unfortunately editors seem to have an unhealthy interest in painting public figures in an unfavorable light and articles often read like a tabloid hit piece. In regard to good faith editors, it seems like every (poorly written) biography has either a controversy or criticism section (both of which I strongly dislike). Many of the newer editors have a misconception that without such sections the article is not neutral. Maybe such controversies receive wider coverage in the press, I don't know.
The Jackson article, like many others, is semi protected because of the editing habits and people we attract at Wikipedia. Many people do not come here to write professional articles unfortunately. I believe a culture shift is needed within the community before such articles can be freely accessed by IPs and new accounts. Unfortunately, I am not sure this will ever be possible and semi protection will spread further throughout Wikipedia.
3. Do you think the article (and other biographies within the scope of the project) could benefit from some form of flagged revisions?
The whole flagged revisions proposal is a real surprise to me. It is a very bold move and Wikipedia tends to shy away from change, we are often entrenched in our ways. While I often advocate for change at Wikipedia, and support the protection of BLPs more than most editors, I have genuine concerns about flagged revisions. Certainly they will benefit biographies, no question about that, but it seems a little extreme and more than a little confusing to the outside world.
Instead, I believe that the criteria for semi protection should be relaxed in relation to BLPs and other controversial topics. We could also do with a three tier system to protection. There is a huge difference between semi protection and full protection, we need something to fill that gap. If liberal protection does not work, flag revisions is still an option.
Regardless, something has to be done and I will happily support flagged revisions over the current mess we find ourselves in. It is a shame that so many of our hard working voluntaries have to spend their time protecting articles instead of writing them.
4. Semi protection allows only autoconfirmed accounts to edit the page, whereas full protection allows only administrators from editing the page. What sort of protection would you advocate to fill that gap? Perhaps something involving section editing or a restriction on the total amount of text added/removed during an edit?
Well, reading from policy, 4 days old and have made at least 10 edits are considered autoconfirmed. This is an extremely low threshold in my opinion, any account that is 4 days old with at least 10 edits can freely edit a semi protected article. A middle tier of protection could restrict editors with fewer than 150 edits and one month experience. Hopefully these editors would have familiarized themselves with the BLP policy (amongst other things) by that stage. I would also advocate that editors need to attain a higher level of experience before they are "auto confirmed" to edit BLPs specifically. I imagine that restricting section editing or the amount of text would be technically difficult to implement and impossible to gain consensus on. It is quite difficult to get 75% (ridiculously high threshold I know) of people to agree to something and we seem to get lost bickering over the fine details of complex proposals.
5. Moving on to the other articles under the scope of WikiProject Michael Jackson. You've brought several of his albums to Good Article status. What skills have you learned or employed in the process?
The most challenging aspect in getting articles like Off the Wall and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix to GA is research. The majority of English speaking media focus on Jackson's personal life over the finer details of his music and artistry. This, coupled with the fact that Jackson rarely allows interviews, makes it difficult to write substantive articles on his music. It can literally take weeks of researching. GA reviewers often find this difficult to appreciate, that such a mainstream artists music is only discussed in general terms.
Jackson's last studio album received mixed reviews from critics. However, if you actually read some of the professional reviews, they really lack in substantial critical analysis. Many professional reviewers went into more detail on Jackson's personal life than the album itself. It will be interesting to see how the world reacts to a new studio album. Will reviewers do their job correctly? Considering all that's gone on in recent years, can we really expect an unbiased review of a new studio album? It will certainly be challenging to write such an article. The same could be said about Jackson's upcoming concerts, press coverage has generally been unfavorable despite overwhelming public interest. I'm not convinced the press will we able to review the performances in an objective, substantive manner. I have certainly learned a lot about where and how to find material to write these articles.
Another issue is neutrality, I will often bump those who strongly dislike Jackson, and on the other side, those who really like him. Neither are here to write an encyclopedia (rather push their agenda) and I often find myself trying to reach a compromise between the two sides.
6. There has been discussion within the project over the possibility of a merger with WikiProject Janet Jackson. Why is that?
Michael and Janet Jackson had Wikiprojects of their own, so it seemed logical to also start a project for The Jackson 5 related articles. The vast majority of articles relating to the musical group are not covered within the scope of WP:MJJ believe it or not. It is not clear by any stretch of the imagination which articles fall within or outside the scope of WP:MJJ. Consensus and custom has shown that editors do not want Jackson 5 related material to be included within the scope of WP:MJJ.
Therefore, I considered starting a separate project for the famous group, but this would have caused unnecessary overlapping of project tagging. For example, it could be argued that Joseph Jackson falls within the scope of WP:MJJ, WP:JANET and a newly created Jackson 5 project. It would have been a little ridiculous in my opinion. Instead, I proposed that all articles relating to the Jackson family would be brought together into a super project of 450+ articles, WP:MJJ and WP:JANET could be disbanded as redundant.
Unfortunately consensus could not be reached and Jackson 5 articles are not covered anywhere. I plan to restart the debate amongst project members this summer.
7. Finally, how can aspiring new editors contribute to Michael Jackson-related articles?
Well, I certainly feel that Jackson's singles could be covered better, so improving these would be a great help to us all. I would advise new editors to avoid using fan sites as sources, they are simply not allowed. I would also like to see The Jackson 5 and the Jackson family improved, hopefully we can get them to good article quality soon. During the summer I will be compiling a list of reliable publications/websites that can used on Wikipedia, to help project members determine what is or is not a reliable source. Search Google, Google news and Google books for information, you might just find something interesting to write about. Try adding actual content to articles instead of fiddling with musical genres, track listings and credits. I would also ask editors to invite new members to the project.