Following the death of Maurice Jarre on 28 March, many newspapers carried an obituary that included a quote attributed to the French composer:
"One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head, that only I can hear."
The quote, it was revealed this week, was lifted from Wikipedia. It was a hoax perpetrated by Shane Fitzgerald, a 22-year-old college student in Dublin, Ireland. Fitzgerald came clean this week, explaining that he had inserted the quote into Wikipedia while working on an essay about globalization and the media but hadn't expected it to be picked up beyond blogs and minor news sources. Instead, it spread to newspapers across the globe.
"My aim," Fitzgerald said, "was to show that an undergraduate university student in Ireland can influence what newspapers are doing around the world and also that the reliance of newspapers on the internet can lead to some faults." No newspapers had caught the fake quote before Fitzgerald contacted publishers.
The quote was added between Jarre's death and the obituaries that began appearing three days later. As The Irish Timesnotes, Fitzgerald added unsourced quotes several times; the second time his quote remained in the article for over 24 hours, while the first and third times it was removed more quickly.
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Israeli newspaper Haaretzreports that at a recent Wikipedia conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner—in response to charges of "problematic" coverage of Israel—explained that Wikipedia is "just another mainstream news medium" and that "more or less the same mistakes can be found in the New York Times".
Based on a hands-on preview of the answer-engine Wolfram Alpha (which launches on 18 May), ReadWriteWebreports that, in order to make up for weaknesses in the underlying data, Wolfram Alpha "adds links to relevant Wikipedia articles to every results page."
In testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, in a public hearing on "The Future of Journalism", Google Vice President Marissa Mayer suggested that Wikipedia's structure is a model for newspapers. She asked publishers to imagine "how the authoritativeness of news articles might grow if an evolving story were published under a permanent, single URL as a living, changing, updating entity." She noted that "[w]e see this practice today in Wikipedia's entries and in the topic pages at NYTimes.com."