How not to use Wikipedia
Right on the heels of my defense of Wikipedia and thoughts about accuracy comes this story about a Wikipedia hoax repeated by journalists around the world. Some kid inserted a fake quote in an article about the recently-deceased French composer Maurice Jarre. Journalists took the quote, reportedly by the composer himself, and inserted it in their obituaries.
This is a classic example of how not to use Wikipedia. Wikipedia a fine place to start research, but like all sources, it is worthless unless it is double-checked for accuracy. The good news here is Wikipedia has a wonderful mechanism for allowing anyone to fact check. It uses the power of hyperlinks to allow authors, or anyone, to add footnotes right next to each assertion, linking to source material.
Before I would use any Wikipedia fact, or any fact anywhere, I'd check to see how it's sourced! Wouldn't you? But in this case, it appears, as the article in the Irish Times explains:
The quote had no referenced sources and was therefore taken down by moderators of Wikipedia within minutes. However, Fitzgerald [the hoaxer] put it back a few more times until it was finally left up on the site for more than 24 hours.
So I say the accuracy error here is charged to the journalists who either didn't know how to use Wikipedia, or any source, effectively, or were to lazy to care.