Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2007-07-02/Wrestler death

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IP unwittingly predicts death: "Awful coincidence"

By Thespian, 2 July, 2007

In an "awful coincidence", an anonymous editor edited the page of wrestler Chris Benoit to state that his wife had died, nearly fourteen hours before the bodies of Benoit and his wife and son were found. After the edit was widely reported, the IP user confessed to the edits, saying that the edits were part of an unsubstantiated rumor that was "a terrible coincidence".

The edit in question, on Chris Benoit, indicated that he had missed an event on Saturday because of the death of his wife, Nancy Benoit. The edit was made just after midnight on June 25th, between thirteen and fourteen hours before the deaths were discovered by Atlanta Police in Fayetteville, an Atlanta suburb.[1][2] JAB5 reverted that, saying "Need a reliable source. Saying that his wife died is a pretty big statement, you need to back it up with something." One hour after the initial edit, an Australian IP address reinserted the rumour, attributing it to wrestling discussion sites. That edit was also reverted with a requirement for more solid citations.[3] On the 26th, Lid went through the history of the Chris Benoit article, and noted the edit, bringing it to the attention of the Administrator's Noticeboard.[4]

The initial IP address to post about Nancy Benoit's death happened to be located in Stamford, Connecticut, the home of the corporate headquarters of the WWE, which led some people to speculate that the IP editor had 'inside information'. However, in light of the IP address having a history of vandalism to other wrestling articles, SirFozzie said, "If you look at the IP's other edits, it's pretty obvious that this was just a garden variety vandal whose vandalization sadly proved true."

Wikinews reported the story on the 28th of June.[5] Wikinews was the first major news source to report on the issue; interestingly, Fox News carried the story, copying part of the story verbatim from the Wikinews site, and citing it to "Wikipedia.org".[6] Fox News labeled their story 'exclusive' at the time, but has since removed that tag.

As a result of the widespread coverage and speculation, investigators announced that they were going to be looking into possible connections between text messages that Benoit sent to his coworkers and friends, and the edit to Wikipedia.[7] News talk shows such as Bill O'Reilly (with guest Geraldo Rivera) made suppositions on their show, with Rivera saying it was "wildly improbable", and an "unthinkable coincidence" that the unidentified editor would get it right without knowing the truth. Greta Van Susteren suggested that the post might indicate that someone else was on site before the police were, and the existence of the posting opened up the possibility of a 'triple murder'.[8] John Gibson referred to the edits as "a brand new Wikipedia shocker", and "spooky".[8] Nancy Grace and her guests suggested it was possible that Benoit may even have made the edit himself, and discussed the possibility that he told someone who then posted it, instead of reporting it to authorities.[9]

On the 29th, in the wake of the media coverage, a post was made to the talk post of Wikinews coverage of the Wikipedia posting.[10] This post, coming from the same Stamford IP as the initial post on the Benoit page, declared, "Last weekend, I had heard about Chris Benoit no showing ... because of a family emergency, and I had heard rumors about why that was. I was reading rumors and speculation about this matter online, and one of them included that his wife may have passed away, and I did the wrong thing by posting it on wikipedia to spite (sic) there being no evidence." Further acknowledging the issues that were brought up, he admitted "I feel terrible about the mainstream coverage this has received...hearing about my message becoming a huge part of the Benoit slayings made me feel terrible as everyone believes that it is connected to the tragedy, but it was just an awful coincidence."

He added, "Like I said it was just a major coincidence, and I will never vandalize anything on wikipedia or post wrongful information."

References

Also this week: Wrestler death

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