Weird Wiki Witlessness

What happens when the Fox haters are allowed to run amok? An "encyclopedia" article with more holes than a doughnut factory.

We were recently introduced to the wonders of Wikipedia, the self-styled internet encyclopedia. The promoters of this site claim that it strives to present a neutral point of view (NPoV). That's an easy premise to test: just head straight to their pages on Fox News.

Sure enough, we find that there is a special spin-off page dedicated to "controversies and allegations of bias". Here the eager reader can learn all sorts of "facts" about the evil people of FNC. For example:
research shows that [Bill O'Reilly] has said 'shut up' to guests up to twenty times since his show's debut in 1996

What "research" would that be? Hard to tell, since there is no citation or documentation for this claim. They could have linked to this, but that would hardly serve their purpose.
Alan Colmes is touted by Fox as "a hard-hitting liberal", but he admitted to USA Today that "I'm quite moderate"

Is something missing here? For one thing, Colmes was referring to how his views stand in relation to a rightward shift in the country as a whole. What about his much more recent quote where he says, "I'm proud to be a liberal. I'm firmly on the left"? And then there's his book: Red, White, and Liberal: How Left Is Right and Right Is Wrong. Why does the NPoV Wikipedia leave all of this out?
Liberal commentator Al Franken lambasted Colmes in his book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

And later apologized to Colmes: another missing fact. The rest of the FNC team are not spared either:
Special Report with Brit Hume regularly features a panel of political commentators touted as an "allstar [sic] panel" and "diverse" by Fox News. The panel generally consists of three people: Charles Krauthammer and Fred Barnes, two self-described neoconservative hawks, and Mort Kondracke, a self-described conservative Democrat

Umm, no. The panel generally consists of Barnes, Kondracke, and Mara Liasson of NPR. Of the Schiavo coverage they claim:
Every major personality on Fox News - Brit Hume, Bill O'Reilly, Neil Cavuto, John Gibson - called for her feeding tube to be reinserted.

We doubt that very highly, but we know for a fact that Shepard Smith, Alan Colmes, and Greta van Susteren never took such a position. Like so many WikiSmears, this one is totally undocumented and unsourced. And then there's this:
John Gibson has argued that no matter the situation, every bit of information that is conveyed to his audience has right wing spin.

Say what?!? When did Gibby ever argue that? Don't bother checking their "sources". None of them backs up this preposterous claim. We could go on, but you get the point. Throughout this "NPoV" page on "bias", we counted:
  • Media Matters cited: 35 times
  • "Fair" cited: 5 times
  • Media Research Center cited: zero times
  • Accuracy in Media cited: zero times

Things aren't much better on the main page for Fox News. Here we learn another astonishing fact: Martin Frost is a "former Texas conservative Democrat representative". Conservative Democrat? With a voting record to the left of Dennis Kucinich? Who is editing this page, Che Guevera?

It's a simple matter to list the reporters and hosts, along with the Fox News contributors who offer expertise and opinions. But even this basic data is a jumble of missing information and erroneous assumptions. The lists are separated into "personalities" and "contributors and regular guests". Yet among the personalities we find:
  • Lisa Bernhard
  • Ellis Henican
  • Alireza Jafarzadeh
  • Robert Novak
  • James Pinkerton
  • Cal Thomas
  • Liz Trotta
  • Lis Wiehl
  • Juan Williams
  • Dr Georgia Witkin

These people are all contributors. They are not correspondents, reporters, hosts, or anchors. Why are their names jumbled up with Shep Smith, Carl Cameron, and Greta van Susteren instead of in the "contributors" section? For that matter, what happened to FNC correspondent Douglas Kennedy? You know, the guy who happens to be a member of the Kennedy family? Why do you suppose his name was left out?

The omissions become even more suspicious when we explore the list of "contributors and regular guests". 25 people are listed, including Noah Frances and Ann Hughes. Huh? Who are they? Your guess is as good as ours. Google their names and the only connection to FNC that turns up is the Wikipedia article! Besides putting fake names on the list, the fair and balanced Wikipeditors conveniently leave out many other contributors, including:
  • Eleanor Clift
  • Wesley Clark
  • Ceci Connelly
  • David Corn
  • Nina Easton
  • Martin Frost
  • Neal Gabler
  • Stan Goldman
  • Ellen Ratner

Why are they not included? Remember, the Wikipedians are not really out to do a "neutral" article on Fox. They even have an entire page dedicated to the concocted myth of the "Fox News Liberal", based on the harebrained premise that FNC won't put "real" liberals on the air. Thus, to preserve the myth, Clift, Clark, Corn, etc, are all erased from the list of Fox contributors. When the legend conflicts with the truth, print the legend.

You may wonder, why does Wiki lump "regular guests" with the contributors? For just one reason: so they can include Ann Coulter! She is, of course, neither a contributor nor a "regular guest", but does show up from time to time. Using the same logic they could toss in Al Sharpton and Charles Rangel, but you won't find their names there. Indeed, the only purported "regular guest" on the entire list is Annie. They renamed the category simply as an excuse to throw one more conservative name onto the fire.

We can't vouch for the accuracy, or lack thereof, of Wikipedian information in general. But if anyone ever cites their incompetent, tendentious hatchet job on Fox News as a "source", know that you are being spun.

posted: Wed - April 19, 2006 at 06:57 PM       j$p  send 

Uh, so why don't you change the Wikipedia pages? Why don't you include your reasoning on the relevant discussion pages?
April 21, 2006, 2:22:20 AM EDT – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
Uh, because I'm already working on two blogs, because I don't have the time to learn a whole new interface, and because when you cross the dominant culture that has taken over a Wikipedia page, you get swarms of people ready to engage you in a revert war, changing whatever you do and reverting it to the way it was. Correcting all the nonsense in the FNC pages (our post only scratched the surface) is going to take a lot more time and effort than I have right now. Maybe someday.
April 21, 2006, 10:41:04 AM EDT – Like – Reply

The Concordian
Hmm. So, easier to whine and be part of the problem than to engage and be part of the solution? How noble.
If it bothers you so much, why not encourage your readers to change the offending entry? Don't give me that garbage about having too little time. You could repair much of the damage in the time it takes you to wrote a couple of blog posts. In fact, given the tedious length of this entry, maybe in the time it takes to write one.
Or is it just more fun to armchair quarterback?
April 21, 2006, 4:27:42 PM EDT – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
Sure, it's great fun to armchair quarterback. And there's part of me that doesn't want the page to be corrected. As it stands, it is a shining example of the sort of misinformation and slippery half-truths that the Fox haters traffic in.
As for my readers editing the entries, there's nothing stopping them. In fact, since you think I should encourage them, I will. Readers, I encourage you to correct the errors and falsehoods.
April 21, 2006, 4:39:10 PM EDT – Like – Reply

Sundown Jaxebadt
I'm not a major contributer to Wikipedia, but I am registered and sometimes contribute to article stubs. I tend to stay away from the large articles like Fox News. So take this with a grain of salt, but, from my observations...
Revert wars can be avoided by writing a justification for changes in the comment section of an article, and by speaking as succinctly as possible. Conversely, using the comments section as a soapbox tends to make revert wars more likely.
April 21, 2006, 5:23:19 PM EDT – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
That's good to know. Since I have no idea what the comment section is (and I understand there are also "talk pages"), I'll have to know a lot more about the structure etc before I wade into that water. Just don't have time right now.
April 21, 2006, 6:22:11 PM EDT – Like – Reply

You are spot on. Wikipedia is a wonderful idea that has failed in many regards, some of which you have addressed here very eloquently. Keep up the good work!
September 29, 2006, 11:56:48 PM EDT – Like – Reply