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Death by Wikipedia: The Kenneth Lay Chronicles July 10, 2006

Posted by rajAT in citizen journalism, media2.0, peer production, web2.0.

Frank Ahrens of Washington post is quoting the incident of wrong reporting of Kenneth Lay death, CEO Enron as an example that shows the Wikipedia model doesn’t work.

News organizations began reporting Lay’s death around 10 A.M.

At 10:06 A.M. Lay’s wikipedia entry said he had died “of an apparent suicide”.

At 10:08 A.M. the entry reads Lay had died “of an apparent heart attack or suicide”.

At 10:09 A.M. another author backtracked the article and said that the cause of death was “yet to be determinded”.

At 10:11 A.M. article concluded, “The guilt of ruining so many lives led him to his suicide”.

At 10:12 A.M. the article was corrected and it says the cause was a massive coronoary heart attack.

The incorrect informatin was there on the website for total 6 mins. Durinig these 6 minutes the information got updated 5 times. And finally the correct information was posted. Now whether those six minutes were crucial that depends on the information and decisions that will be taken based on information. So lets not get into a subjective debate/discussion.

The question that needs to be asked here is, “Should wikipedia be used to check breaking news”. Wikipedia never claimed that they gonna throw Reuters out of business or BBC. Britannica sure :)!!

So IMHO Frank Ahrens is trying to match apple with oranges and that is insanity.

Case closed.



1. Venkatesh - July 10, 2006

WIkipedia is self correcting, so this comparison is right. Let see what wikipedia has to say about Lay after say 1 month. I am betting it would be accurate. This article itself shows, frank doesn’t get what wikipedia is all about.

2. Venkatesh - July 10, 2006

so this comparison right.

3. rajAT - July 11, 2006

Thanks for the comment Venkatesh.

Wikipedia is peer monitored and it works. This got proved in above case also.

But Wikipedia is not a source of information for everything.

Now if one is expecting that it will have accurate equity analysis over there. That is just insane.

4. Chris - August 21, 2006

this in not the only instatnce where WIKI was wrong there was a enrty about a former Kennedy cabinet member that after being proved wrong was not fixed for months and the only reson it was found to be wrong and was fixed is because the cabinet member read and fought to have it changed.
Wiki is not a accurate nor viable soures for any information. The first thing i ever read on Wiki was wrong and it hasent been changed on over a year, wiki is not accruate nor a trustworthy even with a months leaway.

5. Hierbubmilm - December 6, 2007

hm.. just wanna say thank you

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