Right there on the Wikipedia page for renowned author Philip Roth’s book was a glaring error: “The Human Stain” wasn’t inspired by writer Anatole Broyard, as it stated. It was inspired by an incident involving Roth’s pal, Princeton prof Melvin Tumin. (Now imagine that — an inaccuracy on Wikipedia? Shockers.)
One lone voice spoke up about the error in the online reference page. And for his trouble, he was rebuffed and told he alone wasn’t a credible source. So who was this guy? A Roth fanboy? An academician? A relative of the late Tumin? Nope. It was Roth himself. Wikipedia had apparently told him that he wasn’t a credible source for details relating to his own book.
According to the author, who later explained what happened in “An Open Letter to Wikipedia” published in The New Yorker, one of the administrators said, “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work, but we require secondary sources.”
On the surface of things, it seems ridiculous, but the rules are intended to prevent people from editing valid (but possibly unflattering) facts out of their own biographies or works. Here’s the twist though: Roth’s New Yorker article complaining about the situation is apparently considered a secondary source by the site. The facts have suddenly been edited, along with a mention of the new New Yorker article on the page.
So if you ever make it into the annals of Wikipedia and spot erroneous details there, now you know how to get the facts straightened out. Just publish a rant in a widely read publication or site, and you too can be deemed worthy by Wikipedia.
[Via Ars Technica]