Is it time to set the lawyers on Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia?

Wikipedia.orgI’ve been too busy to blog over the last few days, but I couldn’t resist picking up on Simon Collister’s post about Jimmy Wales’ latest rant in PR Week about PR people and Wikipedia. I support Simon’s view that Wales is wrong and it is right for PR people to edit incorrect entries on Wikipedia.

Simon says: “personally, I would have no qualms about editing entries about clients”. I’d go further and say it is your duty to correct mistakes.

Personally I can’t understand how Jimmy Wales’ mind works. Why does he start off from the perspective that people are corrupt and not to be trusted? In my experience it is far better to start off believeing people are good, honest and ethical – because that’s exactly what most people I know are. Wales must hang out with some pretty sad and unsavoury characters if he thinks otherwise.

I would only edit an entry to correct a fact. I would not lie on behalf of a client.

And quite frankly I resent the fact that Wales’ implies that I or fellow professionals would. Is it because he would consider lying if paid to do so? If not, then why does he think he’s better than everyone else?

And it’s not as if you can trust Wikipedia entries, as this story from a local Cumbrian newspaper illustrates (and this forum comment shows Wikipedia can’t get it right even when it tries). And just in case you think this is a one off, then try this story from another Cumbrian paper. Both of these Wikipedia errors in the last few days.

If Wikipedia is meant to be about users creating the entries then surely it would be better for a PR person for Copeland Council to correct these incorrect entries, than for Wikipedia staff to monitor and lock entries, which is what David Gerard, Wikipedia’s UK spokesman said. Or is Wikipedia a bit like Animal Farm where some users are more equal than others?

PR professionals factually correcting an entry must be a better solution than a victim of Wikipedia calling in the lawyers to sue. Or would Wales prefer the lies, smears and incorrect information to stay as the Wikipedia entry? If Wales’ rather warped ethics are more important than the truth then Wikipedia becomes pretty pointless. If the truth doesn’t matter on Wikipedia then we might have to change it’s tag line from ‘the free encylopedia’ to the ‘the pointless encyclopedia’.

Come on Jimmy get out of the gutter and breath the fresh air – it’s a lovely world you know.

Stuart Bruce

International Public Relations Adviser | Trainer | Author | Media Commentator | Conference Speaker | University Lecturer | Online PR | Digital Corporate Communications | Crisis Communications | Digital Public Affairs