Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Timothy Noah Is No Journalist

I don’t specifically go to Slate for the articles anymore. But, given our use of their forums, it remains in the background of my daily reading. So sometimes a word in their headlines will catch my attention. Today that word was Wikipedia. So I click on it and discover that Timothy Noah is using his column space to question Wikipedia’s Notability Standard here, here and here. Apparently someone over at Wikipedia market Timothy Noah’s entry for deletion. This caught his attention, and so he began to chronicle events. Of course, this raises the question of coincidence? Are we sure that Mr. Noah didn’t use an agent to question his relevance for the sake of a few good articles? It seems unclear.

Nevertheless, we’ll assume Timothy is on the up and up. What’s a good journalist to do? I’ll go out on a limb and suggest a little research is in order. First stop (or at least an early stop) would seem to be the Wikipedia entry for Slate Magazine. Once there, you’ll be hard pressed to miss the multiple links to something called The Fray. What’s “The Fray?” It’s Slate’s lowly reader’s forum. Now you tell me, if Slate’s reader’s forum warrants its own Wikipedia entry, certainly a Slate Writer does. Well, it seems that way to me at least, and I’m not even a Slate Writer, and so can only imagine how it must seem to one of them.

So you’re Timothy Noah. You want to call into question Wikipedia’s Notability Standard. Do you use yourself as the test case, or do you find that a little too easy, and instead do your job and discover that there is a very good example that’s still close to home, but not as asinine and cut and dry as the incident which spurred your interest in the first place? I think you go for the latter. I think you make it hard. I think you seize on the opportunity to do some real journalism and tackle the ambiguous example. You see, if Timothy were a real journalist, he would have discovered that the VfD on BotF was not only longer by a few thousand words than the AfD on Timothy Noah, but that the Notability censors who took issue with BotF succeeded in their efforts. There is no entry for BotF in Wikipedia. Instead, you’re redirected to its bastardized offspring, The Fray.

I really only bother to point this out because I find it a great example of the “professionals” once again bringing up the rear of an old debate that is somehow magically supposed to take on new importance because “they” just discovered it. And to be honest I’m bothered that Timothy Noah would dare question Wikipedia’s standards when it’s clear that all he’s really interested in talking about is Timothy Noah. Tim, Dude, you want Wikipedia without Notability Standard (the human factor)? Well you moron, it already exists. It’s called Google.


topazz said...

Now I know how ole' Tim feels. I was one of the first to leave a comment on that Noah article in the Chatterbox fray.

Apparently Geoff didn't feel my comment was notable enough though, judging by the slew of checkmarks he left all around me.

bright said...

Nor am I, topazz. Deej linked to the BotF discussion here. Fun to re-read that VfD discussion - Schad and Geoff were almost friends there.

cpoma= cup of emma [love that hipparchia!]

august said...

Yeah, Noah's article is a big, fat missed opportunity.

One thing I think interesting about Wikipedia -- it has a weird kind of authority. I've never let my students use it for citations, and Middlebury recently made this an official policy (apparently some newspaper editors have had to give journalists a talking to about the practice as well).

Part of the problem is inaccuracy. But the bigger problem is the way students think about Wikipedia -- they use it on occasions when they would never think of citing an encyclopedia. They regard Wikipedia as something much larger than a book -- they seem to think of it as the entire internet, the sum total of all postmodern knowledge. I have to spend time disabusing them of this notion.

That perception is far, far more interesting to me than Timothy Noah's entry.

JohnMcG said...

Another thing Noah could have done was wait until the debate over his entry had run its course, and then reported on it.

As it was, the story wasn't so much about how things work at Wikipedia as it was about what happens when a writer shines light on a debate on his own entry, which to me is less interesting.

SwingLowSweetDeej said...

I emailed Noah about The Fray wiki entry but got no response (anticipated). I thought it germane to his whole point, as bEnder wrote, but I guess it wasn't.


t said...

I emailed Noah about The Fray wiki entry but got no response (anticipated).

That is because the wikifray author, despite delusions of grandeur is actually the one who is "no journalist". His writing is subpar to say the least. I wouldn't have responded either.