Talk:Joan Little

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I'm having some trouble putting this article in the right categories. Can anyone help?--Rockero 19:39, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

Subsequent arrest.[edit]

I'd wondered what had become of the celebrated lady, so I did some checking. I'm surprised that the New York Times article hadn't appeared anywhere here, so perhaps there is a neutrality issue. tells the sad story; apparently Ms Little was better at escaping from prison than from her destiny. I hope she finally figured it out.Kinsler33 02:25, 15 October 2007 (UTC)

Second link is unfortunately broken; needs citations for specific book/manuscript. Fuzzform (talk) 06:13, 19 November 2007 (UTC)


I neglected to note the POV that was present when I tagged the article (11 June 2007). The version I saw had no in-line cites, making all of it suspect. There has been little improvement since then.

The current version remains heavily biased. Two sources are used for the entire article. The reliable one, the NY Times article is used for bare, uncontested facts: when she escaped from jail, date of rearrest, and such.

The remainder of the article draws from one source: "Innocence of Joan Little: A Southern Mystery". To begin to assume this source would give an unbiased reading of the "official" story stretches things beyond the breaking point. It has a story to tell: Joan Little was innocent, the South was rife with prejudice, the prosecutors used dirty tricks etc. This is one telling of one side of the story.

As it stands now, much of it is not cited in-line or the cites are placed in such a way that some of it appears to be unsourced or original research. Is the entirety of "The case" section drawn from the Times article? Reading the article, it clearly is not.

As an editor has requested clarification of the POV tag, I'm going to add some inline tags for POV/OR questions. As Little is apparently still alive, WP:BLP applies and some of the article has to be yanked outright. Long story short: this article needs improved sourcing. Mdsummermsw (talk) 13:43, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

Well, according to WP:CITE#HOW, "Inline citations are [...] needed for statements that are challenged or likely to be challenged, including contentious material about living persons." So since you have found "contentious," and/or challenged 29 of my "claims" and suspected eleven other statements of being original research (for a total of thirty-eight), I have got a lot of work to do. Unfortunately, there are no such requirements for grounds on which a statement might be challenged or found contentious. I don't mind going back and re-reading. It makes for a better article. But I must question the assumption upon which your suspicion is based. Why is the New York Times is reliable when it publishes an news article, but not when it publishes a current affairs non-fiction book? (Times Books is a publishing partnership between The New York Times and another publishing company.) While I hesitate to assume, it would appear to me that you have not read the book. If you had, you would have realized that information you challenge as original research were included in the book. Is it really that difficult to believe that an author would include such information as the childhood experiences of the subject of his book, or what school she had attended? If you had read the book, you would also know that it was written by a professor who relied heavily on trial testimony. From what I remember, he writes fairly dispassionately, and tells "both sides" (if indeed there really are only two sides) of the story. If you are judging the book by its title (The Innocence...), then may I remind you that she was acquitted, which makes the title an accurate description of the outcome of the case and not in itself a reason to doubt the entire content of the book.--Rockero (talk) 03:53, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
"there are no such requirements for grounds on which a statement might be challenged or found contentious."
The official policy is rather blunt here: "Unsourced or poorly sourced contentious material — whether negative, positive, or just questionable — about living persons should be removed immediately and without discussion" WP:BLP
So what is "contentious" is the question. I'd say this: "she was charged with the possession of stolen goods and the possession of a sawed-off shotgun" is contentious ("involving or likely to cause controversy"[1]).
"Why is the New York Times is reliable when it publishes an news article, but not when it publishes a current affairs non-fiction book?"
The issue here is not reliability of the source, but NPOV. "representing fairly and, as much as possible, without bias all significant views (that have been published by reliable sources). This is non-negotiable and expected on all articles, and of all article editors." WP:NPOV This article clearly drops the ball on that front.
"While I hesitate to assume, it would appear to me that you have not read the book. If you had, you would have realized that information you challenge as original research were included in the book."
"The source should be cited clearly and precisely to enable readers to find the text that supports the article content in question." WP:V This means two things to me.
1) It should be clear what information came from what source. Various sections of the article point to one, both or neither of the sources. Sometimes it's mid-paragraph or at the end of the section. If the only cite is mid-paragraph, did the all of the material before the cite come from that source? Clearly this is not the case. What about the material after the only cite? The section "The case" cites only the NYT article at the end. From reading that article, it is clear most of the material in that section did not come from that source.
2) Cites should allow other editors to "precisely" find the supporting text. In all but the longest newspaper articles, assuming another editor will read the whole source seems reasonable. With a book, page numbers or at least a chapter would seem reasonable. Wikipedia:CITE#Provide_page_number
"Is it really that difficult to believe that an author would include such information..."
This has nothing to do with whether or not I believe it. This is about verifiability and citing sources.
"...written by a professor who relied heavily on trial testimony....writes fairly dispassionately, and tells "both sides"...I remind you that she was acquitted."
Please note the first tag I added at the very top of the article: {{onesource}}. The book cited is, in my opinion, a reliable source. The Times and its related imprints have high enough standards in my mind. However, this does not mean that everything that spills from their presses is balanced. Yes, she was acquitted of the murder. The very fact that she was charged, however, certainly indicates that there was substantial question. Point/counter-point. "They attempted to play upon the racial prejudices of the jury." Would they agree? Point/counter-point. "The combination of a sympathetic jury, an impressive defense fund, and Little's status as a cause célèbre won her acquittal..." I'm willing to bet there are many with differing opinions: The jury might think a lack of solid evidence and their unsympathetic, unbiased judgement won her acquittal. Her lawyers no doubt list the case as one of their wins.
With one source -- even if factually correct -- we cannot verifiably know all prominant points of view or "both" sides of the story.
Mdsummermsw (talk) 16:40, 23 January 2008 (UTC)
Hello again, Mdsummermsw. "What is contentious?" is indeed the question. Criminal charges are a matter of public record, and do not determine guilt or innocence, so I fail to see how the existence of such charges may be "likely to cause controversy."
Regarding the NPOV issue, is it true that not "all significant views that have been published by reliable sources" have been included? Absolutely. When I wrote the article, I only used one source. I didn't even know there was another book written about her until someone added its Amazon link to the text of this article. There are also articles by Time, Ms. Magazine, and many others. I think at least one of the lawyers mentions the case on his website, too. While multiplicity of and variety among sources is a welcome addition to any article, I don't see where they are required. I disagree that a single author is incapable of "representing fairly and, as much as possible, without bias all significant views," and that you can use {{onesource}} as the sole qualification for making allegations of NPOV. So you want to know the opinions of the prosecutors, jurors, etc. It doesn't mean I can't find them in the same book. The author of the particular book I cite may not be strictly adhering to WP standards, but it is not, as you infer it to be, a "fictionalization." Its Library of Congress Call Number begins with KF, which is on law. Nonetheless, I freely admit my error of omission, and hope to continue reading, learning, and improving the article.
I agree completely that "it should be clear what information came from what source." If you scroll through the edit history, you'll see that someone came along later and added in the information about Little's recent arrest, along with a link to that article.[2] If there was any murkiness regarding what came from where, please accept my apology, as it was unintentional.
I also agree with some of your removals. I see, for example, why it may be "preferable to omit [...] the name of a private individual" (per WP:ONEEVENT/Privacy of names). And I suppose there's no reason to include the high school from which she graduated or the hospital where she had her surgery. Some of the historians I like reading are meticulous about details like that, and I suppose it has rubbed off a bit more than is appropriate for WP. But I also believe that some of the expurgations should be restored. Her behavior at the hospital in North Carolina, for example, is important. And while descriptions of "moral character" may be embarrassing, the claims about it are neither defamatory nor unsourced, and indeed played in important role in the trial, especially in the arguments of the prosecution.
Finally, I want to apologize if you felt my tone or actions were at all uncivil, harsh, or impatient in these past few exchanges. Looking back at some of my posts, it occurs to me that I have not been as cordial as I should have been. My intention was not to offend, and I apologize if my defensiveness was in any way aggressive. To be honest, I am not that accustomed to having my contributions challenged or questioned. Perhaps that shows that the apathy among the community is deeper than we would like to believe. But I am actually excited to begin the next round of research! Is it too much for me to assume that I can count on you as a collaborator? Thanks for your suggestions, --Rockero (talk) 08:51, 24 January 2008 (UTC)