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Friday, June 27, 2008

Forcing the Past Tense

posted by on June 27 at 14:00 PM

The Globe and Mail has a story by the man who added Tim Russert’s death date to the Meet the Press page of Wikipedia.

I know, I know.

But it’s actually fairly interesting. I’ve always wondered exactly why these people feel the need to update this web page the instant that something happens. And it does explain it a bit, and no, he’s not proud:

Alerted by The New York Times website (which also mentioned Russert’s death a few minutes before NBC did), I visited Wikipedia partly out of interest about Russert and partly out of a vague and morbid curiosity about how long it would take for his death to register. The change, of course, had already been made to the main entry. But when I visited the Wikipedia page of Meet The Press, the flagship political show he helmed on Sundays, I found it in pristine condition.

Why I was compelled to be the one to change it, I couldn’t tell you, but that’s what I did. I added a 2008 as an ending date on his tenure at the show. I changed everything else to the past tense. And I did so post-haste.

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It's an earnest desire to have the project show the most accurate information that you can reasonably make it.

I've been guilty of feeling the death-edit urge, but not only for death editing but for anything else I hear about that is a simple yet significant change.

In some cases, like I did upon David Brudnoy's death a few years ago, you find out through this process not only that the article doesn't state that he is dead, but actually doesn't say much about them at all -- and in a way, fleshing out a weak article on someone is almost like a tribute. Like how one might feel when writing an obit about a well-known figure.

Likewise, if Frizzelle were to quit the Stranger and hand over EIC to Eli or someone, or if the paper were bought by VV, etc., I'd likely be here within minutes, and updating the page -- if necessary -- to be up-to-date and accurate.

Cause that's what good information should be.

Posted by K | June 27, 2008 2:08 PM

This was an Onion article, about the guy who changed Heath Ledger's Wikipedia entry to reflect his death. Is it weird that an Onion article basically became a real-life mainstream media article?

Posted by Julie | June 27, 2008 2:10 PM

Cujus vulturis hoc erit cadaver? (Martial Epigrams 4.62.4)

Posted by kinaidos | June 27, 2008 2:20 PM

I came here to say what 2 said. All hail number two!

Posted by Jason Josephes | June 27, 2008 2:26 PM

the internet is a race.

Posted by brett | June 27, 2008 2:33 PM


Posted by Non | June 27, 2008 2:51 PM

"First" is also "soonest outdated". Better to be last.

Posted by Fnarf | June 27, 2008 6:13 PM

Exercise, exercise, exercise people!

Posted by robot2501 | June 28, 2008 9:03 AM

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